On 24th November the Colombian government and FARC signed a revised ceasefire to bring the Colombian conflict to an end. The conflict began in 1964 and the end of hostilities marks a significant step forward for the country which has been been held back socially, politically, and economically since the conflict began. Colombia’s conflict has been largely unreported in recent years because of the length of the war, but appears that behind the scenes work by diplomats from across the region have managed to achieve a tentative peace.
The most recent news out of Bogotá is that the Colombian Congress has agreed an amnesty programme for all those in FARC. This has divided opinion in Colombia. Supporters have argued that this allows for thee conflict to put into the past whereas detractors argue it gives FARC fighters a free pass for the alleged crimes of the group which include extrajudicial killings and child soldiers. As a general rule of thumb, I tend to err on the side of peace except in certain circumstances.
In Colombia’s case I think that reconciliation between FARC and the government is the only way that the country can move forward. This conflict has lasted for over 50 years and it’s estimated that over 260,000 people have been killed and millions more have been displaced. Given the extend of the bloodshed I contend that peace should be grasped with two hands, even if it means pardoning people who may have committed immoral acts.
Another thing I believe is relevant is in regards to the peace referendum in October. In the countryside where FARC is strongest the voters chose to accept the peace agreement, however in more urbanised areas the vote was against the agreement. The people who have been on the front line of the conflict have said they want peace, and if that means providing amnesty for some questionable guerrilla fighters I’m willing to accept that.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC commanders have been key in achieving this peace settlement, with the former winning the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. However a group of people who have often been ignored by the mainstream media, particularly the mainstream press in the US, are Cuban diplomats who have acted as mediators between the two sides.
Since 2012 Cuban officials have been working to flesh out an end to the fighting but these people have not really been acknowledged because it doesn’t fit the American narrative of Cuba as one of the worst nations on earth. In foreign affairs the Cuban government shows itself to be full of true internationalists and these people should be recognised for the work they have done to bring this bloody war to an end.
The amnesty proposed by the Colombian government should be agreed to because this would allow for a process of reconciliation to begin. The people who have died in this conflict cannot be brought back to life but I think it is incumbent on all those parties taking part in these negotiations to consider how many more could die if this peace settlement isn’t supported. The amended peace agreement passed the Colombian Congress a few days ago, and an amnesty for fighters would be another important step forward. The next thing to do is compensating those victims of the conflict and providing socio-economic stability for those areas most disrupted by the violence. Hopefully the progress of recent weeks can be continued.