The current peace process in Colombia with the Farc guerrillas has polarized society. President Juan Manuel Santos has used an expensive media campaign to defend the peace talks taking place in Havana, Cuba.
Local broadcasters have filled their coffers with taxpayer-funded propaganda in favor of the process. Colombian schools and universities, meanwhile, have been forced to offer a “peace seminar.”
As a result, the government has managed to spread the idea that those of us who are against the process in Cuba are “enemies of peace”.
Today, Colombia’s “enemies of peace” are not those who kill and seek to achieve their goals by using guns and violence. According to the government, the media, and the intelligentsia, the warmongers are the ordinary citizens who call the guerrilla by its name, who openly say they are murderers, and who argue that the peace process is neither morally nor economically advantageous.
Yes, it is true that some of those opposing the peace process have also made mistakes. Just like it’s wrong to call those who tell the truth as they see it “enemies of peace,” it’s also improper to call anyone who is in favor of the peace process a “guerrillero.”
Using ad hominem arguments to discredit a person in order to defend a thesis is undesirable since it only promotes hatred. To say that peace is good and necessary sounds nice, and of course it is. The real question, however, is whether or not the current peace process will actually lead us to a real peace.
Naturally, President Santos speaks to the public as if his peace process is the only way to achieve peace. But he also omits some parts of the truth and, on other occasions, lies openly about the following three issues.
1. Impunity promotes crime
Those of us who are critics of the peace process are usually branded as spiteful. We are accused of not understanding that forgiveness is a necessary step for peace. In this regard, there are at least two things to be clarified:
First of all, forgiveness depends on each individual. It is up to each victim of the guerrilla to decide whether or not to forgive his attacker, and no one has to judge them if they decide not to.
Secondly, forgiveness and impunity are two different things. I’m glad when someone is able to forgive, and I recognize the benefits of such a brave act, especially for he who forgives.
But forgiveness does not mean impunity. To decide not to punish the perpetrator of a crime is to send a message to society that anyone can commit violence without paying for it. Therefore, if the peace process is based on impunity, it’s nonsense to say that this is the way towards peace. Rather, the peace process could very well lead to more violence.
In non-violent societies, the judiciary branch works well and the laws are applied. In countries where the chances of getting away with a crime are very low, there are fewer homicides, since people know they are responsible for their actions. So what message are we sending to Colombian society with this peace agreement?
Those who claim that exempting these murderers from their sentences will stop the violence are wrong. First, it is not fair to allow a criminal to go free. Second, impunity will not help decrease future violence; on the contrary, violence will increase with impunity.
Take, for instance, the message sent to the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, the Farc’s allies who are now being invited to take part in the peace process. In essence, they are being told to assassinate more and to do as much damage as possible; only then will the government grant them the same benefits it has given the FARC. Thus, Santos’s peace process is an incentive to crime, not a true call to prevent future violence.
2. Drug trafficking will not end if the FARC disappear
The FARC’s major source of financing is drug trafficking. The guerrilla group not only owns cocaine laboratories and coca plantations while having its own network of dealers. It is also famous for forcing people to pay “vaccines” or “revolutionary taxes,” euphemisms for the extortion charges they impose on those who produce, manufacture, and transport drugs.
Those who claim that the market share of the FARC’s drug business will disappear when they demobilize are either very innocent or very big liars. As in any other industry, other competitors— in this case, other drug dealers and criminal gangs — will come to fill the void the FARC leave behind if they abandon the drug trade at all.
During the previous administration, in fact, the alleged demobilization of paramilitary groups led to the rise of the so-called Bacrim, criminal bands often made up of former paramilitaries. These violent groups regained control of most of their drug-related activities almost immediately.
Murders, extortion, and every other crime resulting from drug trafficking will not come to an end when the FARC officially become a political party. Let us recall that, before the guerrilla entered this business, the drug cartels centered in Medellin and Cali were already spreading violence throughout Colombia.
Once the current peace process concludes, there will be a reallocation of both drug routes and crops, and this will surely lead to an increase in violence. The government’s “peace” deal with the FARC will definitely not lead to a reduction in drug trafficking.
3. Farc-related homicides make up less than 3 percent of all murders in Colombia
If you mention this figure to anyone unfamiliar with the issue, they will probably be surprised. Many people believe, in fact, that the FARC are the main culprits of Colombia’s violence. Once they are out of the picture, they think, the country will become a much safer place.
The notion that violence associated with the guerrilla is one of the country’s structural problems is shared broadly among the public. This story is also encouraged by the Santos administration. It turns out, however, that it’s not true.
In 2011, the year before the talks in Havana started, there were 500 homicides associated with the war between the Colombian government and the guerrilla according to official figures. That is less than 3 percent of all homicides committed in the country in what was probably the last year of all out war.
Therefore, guerrilla groups, and the FARC in particular, are responsible for only a marginal part of violence in Colombia. Thus, the perception that the FARC’s demobilization will lead to a substantial reduction in violence is false.
It is clearly not true that we will achieve peace only if a deal in Havana is signed. The percentage of homicides caused by the guerrilla is very small, and we cannot even expect the total number of deaths attributed to the FARC to decrease. Those related to drug trafficking will not disappear, and they may in fact increase.
[adrotate group=”7″]Many of those who defend the peace process certainly have good intentions, and they have been convinced by the President’s touching speeches. But remember: the important thing is not how nice ideas sound, but the results they produce.
If society’s goal is to reduce violence and achieve peace, the peace process now taking place in Havana is not the right path. However, if the goal is for President Santos to win a the Nobel Peace Prize, then things are definitely being done the right way.
Vanessa Araujo Vallejo is a Colombian economist, member of the Libertarian Movement of Colombia. Follow her @VanesaVallejo3.