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Colombians Should Learn from Guatemala and Not Succumb to FARC Guerrillas

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Feb 15, 2016, 1:04 pm
La continuación del Plan Colombia entraña varios peligros para ese país. (ICNDiario)
The continuation of Plan Colombia could pose a new set of challenges for the South American nation. (ICNDiario)

EspañolThe Colombian government’s complex peace process with the FARC guerilla is reaching a critical point. In the following weeks, both parties will finalize the last details of a deal that may inaugurate an era of peace that is much desired. On the other hand, the peace agreement could also bring about  many negative consequences.

Two events over the past days suggest what those dangers could be.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met with Barack Obama, who has pledged some US$450 million in financial assistance to ensure the deal’s success. Obama claimed this aid package was a means to help a friendly and allied nation, not a way to interfere or intervene in Colombia’s internal affairs.

But the worrying part is that Obama and Santos claimed the deal also sought to seek “full justice,” which means punishment for those Colombian army officers who may have committed crimes against humanity.

The US government keeps pressuring Colombia, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries to harshly punish those military officers who battled the insurgent groups. But it fails to mention the acts committed by the guerrilla members who followed no rules, who rebelled against legitimate governments, who kidnapped and killed civilians, and who were responsible for terrorist attacks.

It is difficult to understand the US government’s zeal to enforce a biased justice standard that erodes national reconciliation. In Guatemala, for instance, the US is spearheading efforts to bring army officers to trial for reprehensible acts, forgetting that the other camp’s exploits are equally abhorrent.

The second fact is the FARC’s emphatic refusal to allow the Colombian people to ratify the agreements through a referendum.

The guerrilla leaders know that public opinion will not approve the concessions that an excessively lenient Colombian government is promising them. They want officials to grant them all sorts of favors and privileges, completely bypassing public opinion. In a ironic turn of events that borders on shamelessness, the insurgents who still haven’t deposed their arms against the state are trying to use the Colombian constitution to shield themselves from the will of the people.

[adrotate group=”7″]If the guerrilla has its way, if the United States continues to seek punishment for armies that fought insurgent movements while protecting those who took up arms against innocent people, Colombia will be in the same situation as several Latin American countries. Former guerrilla leaders will become congressmen, ministers, or even presidents, and army officers will land in jail for excesses that they did not commit.

Amnesty laws enacted in all our countries have not been respected at all. Instead, they have served to provide cover for the excesses of one side in the fight, leaving the other to suffer the vengeance of their former enemies.

I believe Colombians should do well in dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s before giving the deal with the FARC the green light.

If they want an authentic, lasting, and firm peace, they should reject all foreign meddling in their affairs. Colombians should demand that amnesty and a return to public life be open to everyone. Nobody should be excluded under the extreme left-wing ideological bias that usually underlies these peace accords.

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

Carlos Sabino Carlos Sabino

Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324