While conflicts continue to take place involving al-Qaeda, Israel and Palestine, and various others, it looks as if the world could have one less conflict in the future. As it stands, in La Habana, Cuba, peace talks are taking place between the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) with the aim of ending 50 years of conflict between the two sides. This is significant in Colombia’s attempt to usher in a new era of peace for the nation. It is a left-wing organisation which could be considered more obscure to young people of today, with their ideology based around an anti-imperialist agenda. They are considered a terrorist organisation by many countries in the West, such as the USA, Canada, the EU and New Zealand. Now, after years of kidnappings, attacks and subsequent bloodshed, both sides are taking slow steps towards ending these atrocities.
These peace talks have primarily come to fruition over the last few years due to the weakened state of the FARC. The strength of the FARC has never been determined accurately, but there has been a recognised demobilisation of members in the past ten years, with reports suggesting that approximately 26,000 people have disbanded from the FARC since 2002. This has been assisted by the international support to the Colombian government, with the USA supporting Colombia through legislation and resources aimed at combating the FARC and other left-wing organisations. This is called the ‘Plan Colombia’ scheme, and it has made it more difficult for the FARC to pursue their political aims, with this scheme helping the Colombian government crackdown on the narcotics trade, with this being a large source of the FARC’s income.
However, despite this decline in the FARC’s standing in Colombia, the Colombian government have still made concessions over the last ten years in order to make it easier to arrive at the negotiating table, with members of the FARC having been previously worried about their future with the threat of several charges being laid against them. This has been achieved through recent laws and amendments being passed, establishing that the alleged criminal violators could be persecuted, but their sentences could be reduced or suspended completely at a later date. This was agreed upon through a constitutional amendment in 2012, with this building on a law passed in 2005, focussed on demobilising military combatants. While negotiations have been ongoing between the Colombian government and the FARC for the last 20 months, peace talks have been on the cards for far longer, with these compromises made by the Colombian government in order to ensure the full cooperation of the FARC when talks began.
These concessions which have been made through the passing of these laws have caused there to be a significant split in opinions, with certain factions of Congress and the public remaining unsure over the FARC’s perceived sincerity in these peace talks, and whether these compromises will in fact strengthen the negotiations or merely enable FARC members to be let off the hook for their crimes. In these peace talks, there have been truth-telling sessions between FARC members and the victims they affected, with this being an unprecedented idea in previous peace talks of any kind. It remains to be seen whether the Colombian people can accept these conditions to try the FARC members for their past atrocities, with there being potential conflict and less chance of a durable peace if the people don’t get what they want regarding justice being served.
Despite there being a strong level of confidence for the future of these negotiations, the FARC have recently thrown water onto these hopeful embers by releasing a statement that the Colombian government are creating ‘false expectations’ among their citizens, and that in their mind, there is still a long way to go until these peace talks will be near to completion. As it stands, there have been agreements in three of the five main discussion points: rural development, political participation and the farming of illegal crops. If it has taken 20 months to agree upon these points, then it could be a long time coming until the world will see a Colombia that is at peace.