Historic agreement made in continuing Colombia peace process
News from Colombia |
on: Friday, 8 November 2013
On Wednesday 6 November an historic agreement was reached between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla insurgency as part of the continuing peace negotiations taking place in Havana, Cuba.
A joint statement confirmed that an agreement had been made on the issue of Political Participation, the second of six points on the agenda. The agreement is being hailed as a further significant step to bringing an end to an armed conflict which began almost 50 years ago.
Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC were initiated just over one year ago and this latest agreement follows on from a partial accord made on the issue of land, the first point on the agenda, in May.
An agreement on political participation is of far-reaching significance. The roots of the armed conflict are found in part due to the lack of access to the political system for those living in the poorest sectors of rural Colombia. This was indeed one of the motivations that led to the formation of the FARC as well as for many to join the group. This political exclusion has not just been structural: thousands of opposition political activists, including trade unionists and rural community leaders, have been targeted precisely to ensure they do not gain access to political institutions. This was most vividly expressed for a ten year period from the mid-80s when the Patriotic Union political party – which included demobilised FARC guerrillas as well as trade unionists, peasant farmers, and those looking for a social transformation in Colombia – were targeted by a combination of state forces and paramilitary death squads. Up to 5,000 members of the party were killed including two presidential candidates and eight congressmen.
The agreement has focus on ensuring both the necessary structural changes and security guarantees to enable a far wider access to the political system. Some of these changes include transitory electoral arrangements in areas most affected by the armed conflict, the creation of a statute guaranteeing rights to the political opposition, and a reform to the electoral system. There are also changes proposed to guarantee greater access to the media and guarantees in terms of security for demobilised guerrillas taking part in electoral politics. This is without doubt an important step in terms of the peace process and in terms of the decades long struggle for increased equality and social justice in Colombia.
It was hailed by opposition politician Ivan Cepeda, whose father was an assassinated congressman for the Patriotic Union, as a “clear demonstration that we can really believe that peace is possible”.
As with previous agreements made on the issue of land, nothing will be implemented until all the points have been agreed. The four points to follow are: drugs and illicit crops, victims, ending the armed conflict, and implementation.