Colombian government impedes peace process

colombia farc party

30 November 2017 saw the end of a year-long ‘fast track’ period for Colombia’s Congress to pass urgently needed measures to consolidate the Havana Peace Accords. These measures represent about a tenth of the overall agreement between the FARC and the government, yet after a year only about a fifth of this tenth have been acted upon. The government of Juan Santos has lost its majority in the Congress as his opportunistic coalition members hunt around for deals with other parties in anticipation of the March Congressional and 1 May Presidential elections in 2018. Santos can now plead that his hands are tied. In November 2017 the Constitutional Court and Senate changed the Justice Model agreed at Havana, creating serious difficulties for the reintegration of FARC (military) members into civil society.

A year after the agreement, supervised by 700 UN observers, FARC has now completely disarmed. Some 7,000 members and 7-8,000 militia were ‘reincorporated’ into civilian life, and 9,000 weapons surrendered. More than half of the demobilised FARC members had left the camps by mid-November, but disillusionment is extensive as, according to the Head of the UN mission, they are ‘still being detained by the National Police, having difficulty accessing the banking system or signing contracts with the State’. There are shortcomings in the medical care provided for ex-guerrillas, some of whom are disabled and chronically ill.

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Colombia: continued murderous assaults on rural workers

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On 5 October 2017 at least ten rural workers were killed and over 50 injured during an assault by the police in Tandil, Tumaco. 1,500 demonstrators from the villages of Sonadora, Restrepo, Vallenato, El Divorcio Playon and El Tandil, as well as Awa Indigenous people, had gathered to protest against the forced eradication of coca crops and the federal government's non-compliance with the National Program for the Substitution of Crops for Illicit Use, as agreed in the Peace Agreement with FARC. They were violently attacked.

President Juan Manuel Santos typically first claimed that local gangs were responsible, deliberately noting that it was a traditional FARC territory, without explicitly blaming the group which is now in transition to civilian political life. The press, for example El Tiempo, on the other hand simply asserted that it was the work of a dissident FARC group. Dissident members of FARC in the area have flatly denied any association with the tragedy. The Colombian Ombudsman's Office then had to face the incontrovertible fact that members of the national police were responsible for the killing of the villagers. Four police officers have now been suspended for their involvement in the deaths, according to El Tiempo.

On 8 October a Colombian police unit, the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD), burst violently into the Aguas Tibias farm in Puracé, which was occupied by hundreds of indigenous people. Maria Efigenia Vásquez Astudillo, an indigenous journalist for the radio station Renacer, was shot twice and killed. She was covering the clashes in Puracé, Kokonuko, in the province of Cauca. The Director General of UNESCO condemned the killing on 18 October.

‘The community was in the middle of taking back their land when they were attacked by the ESMAD, without any restraint,’ said Viviana Ipia, Deputy Governor of the Kokonuko Reservation. The indigenous people’s struggle to liberate their traditional homeland has been going on for more than six years. The objective is to take back indigenous land that is in the hands of third parties, usually private entities, as is the case with the Aguas Tibias estate, now a tourist resort. The purchase of the estate had already been negotiated with the government on 23 September.

The indigenous people denounced the use of tear gas and firearms by the ESMAD in the crackdown, and stated that this is not the first attack that has happened on the indigenous community. ‘We have bullet casings from the attack on the community,’ said Ipia. So far in 2017, more than 60 human rights defenders, farmers, and social leaders have been killed in Colombia.

In Tandil, also on 8 October, Colombia's Justice and Peace Organisation said that a human rights mission with UN observers was attacked by members of the security forces as they approached the site of the 5 October massacre. Journalists were also caught up in the shooting. Police fired shots and grenades at the group as they attempted to enter the area, according to the Office of the Public Defender.

At the 26th session of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for Development and Communication (IPDC) in March 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO was asked to provide a ‘Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity’ since 2006. Since 2008, such reports have been prepared every two years.

On Thursday 12 October 2017, US President Trump announced the withdrawal of the US from UNESCO.

Colombia: the ‘Peace’ process

Colombia peace

The revised Peace Deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas was ratified by both of Colombia’s parliamentary chambers on 1 December 2016. The first laws to carry it into practice were approved by both houses on 28 December. Six FARC appointed observers now sit in Congress to monitor the passing of legislation related to the peace process. Meanwhile, across the country, as FARC’s defensive structure disappears, rural spokespersons, social leaders and members of FARC’s political party, Marcha Patriotica, face renewed intimidation and death at the hands of landowners’ agents and drugs gangs.

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Colombia: new peace deal agreed

colombia august 2016

‘Like a bomb, the insurgency blew in Colombia after noble people were living in humiliation, some decided to take on the guns to do something for their nation, but if you want to fight and do not have guns you have my words, and acts of love that can penetrate the minds of the people, ’cos today we are asking for the liberation of our nation, of the workers, justice is coming, we can hear justice coming.’ (Rap lyrics of Jhon Steban Pérez, FARC guerrilla)

The 2 October 2016 referendum rejected the much-heralded Peace Accord of 26 September between the Colombian government and FARC-EP. The result, 50.2% versus 49.8% of voters, rested on the thinnest margin of 54,000 votes out of almost 13 million ballots, in a turnout of fewer than 38% of the 32.8m voters listed. International backers of the agreement were shocked. Leaders from the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Cuba and the UN had attended the signing. Most outlying provinces voted in favour of the agreement, with those nearer the capital and inland voting against, although the capital Bogota voted ‘Yes’. The neo-fascist rancher and ex-President, Uribe, led the opposition. Appealing to ignorance and bigotry he repeatedly called Santos a ‘Castro-Chavista’ and the Marxist FARC ‘narco-terrorists’.

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Colombia: Peace Accords rejected

Colombia peace talk

On 26 September 2016 the Colombian government and the leadership of FARC–EP signed the agreements that they have negotiated over the last four years. During these years, FARC declared unilateral ceasefires to undermine excuses made by the government not to negotiate, while the Colombian state continued to target and kill key FARC leaders. The two sides were joined at the signing by leaders from the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Cuba and the United Nations. Days later, the referendum on acceptance of the Accords was rejected by a small majority.

The agreement, signed in Cartagena, Colombia, was preceded by a special, tenth, Congress of FARC delegates from throughout the country. Held in Yari in the Selva of south west Col­ombia, over 200 delegates discussed the Havana Accords for a week and agreed on the steps to follow the Accords. Invited guests included Imelda Daza, leader of the Patriotic Union, which would have again played a vital part in the struggle for socialism in the towns and cities. They would have had five seats guaranteed in the two chambers of the 2018 Con­gress, the 102-seat Senate and the 161-seat House of Representatives. These are based on the votes cast for the Patriotic Union before thousands of its members, leaders and cadres, were butchered in the 1990s by establishment assassins. This evolving poli­tical party will have little time to consolidate its influence before the July 2018 Congressional election.

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