Photo: Monica Hernandez Ahman/Shutterstock

What the New Modified Peace Deal With FARC Means for Colombia

Colombia Activism
by Nicole Wildman Dec 16, 2016

Under the efforts of President Juan Manual Santos, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year, the Colombian community has been trying to come together in the name of peace, even partnering to a certain extent with a rebel group, FARC, that has been historically known for violence since the early 1960s.

Back in October, the Colombian government offered up a peace treaty that was more than 100 pages long and took four years to create, but the voters narrowly rejected it. Just a few weeks ago, President Santos took an amended version to Congress instead. It had 13 additional pages and about 50 modifications, and it passed.

The passing of a peace treaty sounds like a big, positive step in ending violence in Colombia, but there are going to be several challenges in implementing it. And we have to remember: the voters rejected this deal the first time around. So what’s changed? What does it mean for Colombia? And can the deal even be enacted quickly enough to truly prevent more violence?

First of all, a little background information on who FARC is.

FARC stands for Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, which translates to The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The group has been attempting a Marxist revolution since its inception in 1964. A large portion of recruits are minors, and the group uses military tactics, terrorism, kidnapping and ransom, and other violent, forceful tactics to fund its cause and manipulate its members and the surrounding communities. FARC has been shrinking in recent years, and in June, signed a ceasefire agreement with the President of Colombia.

CNN estimates that Colombian’s war with FARC cost the country at least 220,000 lives and displaced 5 million people — which is a major reason why the Colombian community has found it difficult to accept a peace deal that benefits FARC in any way.

What makes this amended version of the treaty so different from the original?

Some additions have been made to go a little tougher on FARC. The 50 modifications and 13 additional pages include the following:

  • FARC will have to disclose its drug trafficking routes.
  • FARC will be required to compensate victims of FARC crimes.
  • FARC is required to disclose details of how it will compensate victims of its crimes.
  • FARC will receive less public funding to set up the political party they wish to start, legally, within Colombia’s government, than was originally planned.

FARC may have been willing to bend in those areas, but they wouldn’t compromise in others.

For example, FARC was adamant that they wouldn’t allow their leaders to serve jail time.

The Colombian government wanted rebel leaders who had been accused of human rights violations to be banned from running for political office until they’d served time for their alleged crimes. FARC didn’t agree to that, either.

Yes, modifications were made, but there are still people who believe the new deal is too lenient on FARC.

Although the new version was passed, the opposition has the minority in congress, for now, and there are still many who want more justice and less political power for the historically violent members of FARC.

Another road block: FARC is expected to give up its weapons, but it’s unclear how that will take place.

President Santos has been confusing when it comes to discussions about collecting FARC’s weapons. Terms like ‘a portion’ and ‘30 percent’ of their weapons have been thrown around, but, according to an article in The Telegraph, the Colombian government doesn’t know how many weapons FARC actually has, and they may have acquired more from Russia during the peace talks.

Although the United Nations would be responsible for disarming FARC, according to the same article, pro-FARC countries (Cuba and Venezuela) would provide soldiers to oversee the disarming process, and they haven’t implemented a method of tracking the weapons. This leaves room for many of these weapons to leak into the black market, and many FARC members, supported by those responsible for the disarming, have connections with other terrorist and criminal organizations.

In addition to that, Colombia will have to pass some new laws in order to implement the peace treaty.

Right now, there are several laws that are preventing the treaty from becoming legal, simply because some of the conditions outlined in the treaty violate current Colombian laws. For instance:

  • FARC wants amnesty for its members who have been accused or convicted of crimes. It refuses to move forward with the deal until a new law is passed that allows that amnesty to be granted.
  • A special tribunal is necessary to prevent FARC members from facing jail time and other harsh legal consequences for their alleged crimes. Under the deal, many of them would owe only community service.
  • A new law is needed to grant former FARC members the 10 seats in Colombia’s congress that the deal has granted them.

At this time, it’s uncertain that Congress can even afford to make all these changes to put the deal into effect.

And the clock is ticking. Colombia has been relatively peaceful since a July 2015 cease-fire went into effect, but it may not hold if the new deal doesn’t go into effect soon.

Although the government will face obstacles in implementing the peace deal, as it currently stands, it’s likely that it will be put into place. However, Colombia’s next presidential election is in May 2018, and new congresspeople will be elected in March of the same year. If the treaty hasn’t been implemented by then and former president Uribe, the biggest dissenter, and his supporters, win more seats in congress or win that election, the treaty could be in trouble.

So basically, the signing of the treaty began a six-month countdown, during which time FARC is supposed to hand in their weapons and found an official political party within the Colombian government. According to Santos, FARC has three months to move to the United Nations areas for disarming to take place, while FARC is stating that the clock doesn’t start until they’ve been granted amnesty.

In conclusion, this new treaty is unlikely to completely stop violence in Colombia and it just may bring more.

The peace treaty is only an agreement between FARC and the Colombian government — it doesn’t have a say over actions taken outside of FARC’s control. FARC has been a leader in violence for over 50 years in Colombia, but there are many other players who remain in the game, some of whom were trained by FARC, and some who are outside of Colombia — like the drug gangs in Brazil or the FARC trained Mapuche Indian insurgents in the south of Chile. There are several criminal gangs recruiting throughout Colombia, including the National Liberation Army, which is considering peace talks with the government as well.

The cocaine industry operated, in part, independently from FARC, and is likely to continue even if FARC agrees to peace, including the violence that it brings.

Previous peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government have ended in more violence rather than in peace, and there is a fear that the same could happen if the process doesn’t go smoothly, or if too many Colombians disagree with the outcome.

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