Español After 50 long years of conflict, the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla have released their first draft agreement from ongoing peace negotiations. The much-awaited elements of the 65-page document are the proposed reforms, including the protocol for access to rural land, a lower threshold for minority-party participation, and subsidies for alternatives to narcotics production.
The stated objective of the release is transparency for a process that has been two years in the making. This has come after mounting pressure from those in opposition to President Juan Manuel Santos’s handling of the terrorist organization, as they have alleged a lack of access to the fine print of the negotiations.
Proceso de paz es sólido y registra avances concretos. Hemos acordado con las Farc hacer públicos los acuerdos logrados hasta el momento.
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) September 24, 2014
Humberto de la Calle, chief of the negotiation team of the government, explained the reasons that led state officials and the FARC to release the details: “confidentiality of the process gave an advantage to opponents … to misdirect public opinion, which made us take matters into our own hands and release details of the agreements.”
Juan Esteban Ugarriza, a political science professor at the University of Rosario in Colombia and the director of a research project, “Experiments with political reconciliation in Colombia,” has shared his response with the PanAm Post. Nobody expected this political revelation, he explains, and now there is widespread understanding that there are no such hidden agreements.
His assessment is that the general terms of the negotiation were well known. This release does provide much greater detail, he says, but there is not any new information to generate controversy. This precision regarding the details is particularly prescient, given a planned referendum and sought-after approval from constituents.
Modernization of Rural Colombia
“Towards a New Colombian Countryside” is the title given to protocol for both acquisition and application of land ownership. The plan is to grant land to farmers who do not have any or have an insufficient quantity. To assure production, government officials promise to give easy access to credit, guidance with harvesting techniques, and new legislation to better define and protect ownership.
— Presidencia Colombia (@infopresidencia) September 25, 2014
Negotiation officials have promised to rebuild the countryside most harmed in the war with special development programs. Their stated objective is to cut rural poverty in half in the next 10 years, and the strategy will include food-security committees to ensure basic needs are met.
Daniel Raisbeck, an historian and classics professor at Our Lady of the Rosary University in Bogotá, says there is a clear upside to the proposed reform: “It will develop a solid property-rights system and will make clear who is the owner of every hectare of Colombian Soil.” Raisbeck believes, though, that this measure must be accompanied with transparent registration of properties and companies.
He supports the emphasis on developing agricultural markets, especially for international trade, although that key element is absent from the published agreements. “In fact, many governments have done nothing more than protect certain markets,” he opines.
Lower Barriers to the Political Arena
Colombia will have what the negotiating parties describe as a more open and inclusive democracy. The key ingredient will be opportunity for new political parties to survive without meeting a minimum threshold of required votes in elections.
In addition, the territories that have suffered the most in the internal conflict are set to receive extra representatives in the Colombian Congress — an attempt to speed up the transition from war to peace.
In terms of the wider civil society, negotiators hope to enact a law to establish social organizations that promote tolerance and greater political participation among the citizenry. Humberto de la Calle says that greater engagement will assure that in the future “nobody else will use weapons to promote a political cause.”
Narco Dollars: The Elephant in the Room
The cultivation of illegal drugs is one of the principal forms of subsistence in Colombia, and a key revenue stream for the guerrilla. To address this contentious issue, negotiators propose the creation of a program to substitute legal commodities for the illegal ones.
De la Calle emphasizes that, rather than wipe out the plantations, the communities are going to be transformed. The FARC have also asserted they will cut any relationship they have had with organized crime and drug trafficking.
For Reisbeck, however, the proposed line of action ignores the immense allure and will do nothing to stop the harvesting of illegal substances: “In Colombia, the war on drugs is caused by its prohibition.… This treaty leaves intact the drug-trafficking structures, because drugs remain illegal.”
In Colombia, the war on drugs is caused by its prohibition.… This treaty leaves intact the drug-trafficking structures, because drugs remain illegal.
The released agreements identify drug abuse as a “public issue that requires priority treatment,” with intervention targeted towards regulated consumption. If implemented, the Colombian government would also increase its confrontation with organized crime linked to drug trafficking.
“How will the FARC and Juan Manuel Santos ever dismantle the value chain of drug trafficking, when this starts with the price that consumers pay in the United States and other countries?” Raisbeck remarks. He contends that this agreement does not offer any solution to the fundamental germ of the war on drugs: “Those who see this agreement as hope for real peace in Colombia are victims of optimism not sustained in reality.”
Professor Ugarriza has a slightly different take, that the agreements are an opportunity to bring alternative strategies to the table, which in and of itself is progress: “I don’t expect that this will ends the problem of drug trafficking, but it might have positive results in some territories. The legalization debate will march on alongside these negotiations.”
One prominent issue yet to be resolved is the future of FARC members — whether they will be punished and who among them will be able to engage in politics. This will be the last item negotiated in Havana.