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COLOMBIA
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”
Susan Abad
10/9/2014
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Three of the five points on the agenda for peace negotiations between the government and the FARC have already been approved.

“The circulation of [fake] versions and rumors” that attempted to “misinform and create mistrust” between Colombians was — as the chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle said — what motivated President Juan Manuel Santos to reveal at the end of September the agreements that have been reached in the peace talks in Havana with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), since November 2012.

“There have been leaks about the agreements which have created even more confusion,” said De La Calle, adding that this is the reason they decided to “take the bull by the horns” so that Colombians could “compare what we have said with the real documents that we released today, and so they understand the entirety of what has been agreed upon. They will see that we have informed accurately. They will have to conclude that there is nothing hidden.”

The 65 pages that contain what has been agreed upon regarding three of the five points in the agenda — farmland, political participation and illegal drugs — were declassified after being kept confidential since their creation in the so called “General Accord for an End to Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace.”

The first point, titled “Towards a new Colombian Countryside: Comprehensive Rural Reform,” highlights the creation of a land fund to distribute land free of charge among those peasants who do not have or do not have enough land. The government would provide them with credit, technical assistance and support for commercialization of products. At the same time, the land registry will be updated to ensure that those who have more pay more.

Agreements regarding environmental protection and special programs for land development are also reached. “It´s about rebuilding the regions most affected by the conflict and poverty to transform those lands, guarantee rights and facilitate reconciliation,” said the chief negotiator.

Likewise, the parties agree to create a special system of food and nutritional security, for which local and regional markets are strengthened, and to create special programs against hunger.

Democratic opening
With respect to the “Citizen Participation to Consolidate Peace,” the parties await a new democratic opening based on the creation of new political parties that do not depend on reaching a threshold — currently 3 percent of valid votes — to maintain their legal status.

To increase the representation in Congress of the zones which were most affected by the armed conflict, the parties agreed to create Temporary Special Districts of Peace. Additionally, they will create a Guarantees Law to increase transparency in the electoral system and promote tolerance in politics.

This second point highlights the hope that “no one will ever again use arms to promote a political cause,” as De La Calle said. To ensure this, the Statute of the Opposition will be created and an Integral Security System will be established for those who want to participate in politics. The security system will ensure those who surrender weapons, leaders of social movements and human rights defenders that they will not be victims of violence once they rejoin civil society.

The illegal drugs theme highlights the initiation of a Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops and Alternative Development and the commitment to the prevention and treatment of drug use. The parties also agreed on a strategy to expand the fight against organized crime with links to drugtrafficking. The FARC committed to end any relationship with drugtrafficking that “may have been presented.”

The extent of the agreements led analysts and political parties to take their time studying them. However, while stating that she has only quickly reviewed the agreements, Martha Parra, a political science expert, told Latinamerica Press that “for the most part, the documents coincide with what the negotiators informed in May and November of 2013 in regards to farmland and political participation, and in May of this year [in regards to] illegal drugs. Nothing indicates that [these agreements] are moving the country towards a Castro-Chavista regime as the opposition states.”
 
Pending critical points
Former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) also gave his opinion, stating that it would have been enough to use the seizure of assets law to compensate the landless peasants and that the FARC have to be the first to return lands because, as he states, “they are among the country´s main land grabbers.”

The Minister of Agriculture Aurelio Iragorri came out in defense of the agreements and highlighted that what is novel about what has been agreed upon to date in the issue of agriculture is that peasants will receive lands to generate wealth instead of repeating what happened in other times when lands remained unproductive and were taken advantage of by drugtraffickers. He also pointed out the commitment to formalize land ownership and disclosed that in Colombia there are 4 million land plots but only 21 percent of these have property titles. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of the movement toward food security and the search for the country´s self-sufficiency in that regard.

Parra states that “in a sense, these are pre-agreements” and recalls that the negotiators continue to maintain that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” He ensures that, in addition to two topics still in the agenda — compensation for victims and surrender of weapons — “there are still critical points pending:  Will the FARC return lands? Will the guerrilla members receive jail sentences? Could guerrilla members responsible for kidnappings, assassinations and massacres be congressmen? Will some guerrilla members be extradited? The final outcome is yet to come.” —Latinamerica Press.


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Government negotiators and the FARC debate in Havana (Photo: Office of the High Commissioner for Peace)
Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
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