Victims on the Agenda and at the Table; Presidential Debates

June 6, 2014

Last Tuesday, June 3rd, the Colombian government and FARC delegations resumed peace  talks in Havana, where they are preparing to discuss the theme of victims.  On his arrival in Havana, lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle announced that “the victims will be in the center of the process.  We have not come to negotiate their rights, what is being discussed is the way to guarantee them.”  (See De la Calle’s statement here.)  Yesterday, President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed that victims will be “part of the solution” of the armed conflict and announced that victims’ groups would be represented at the table in Havana, something long demanded by the victims. (See Santos’s statement here).  The delegations are divide into commissions to work on the different  sub-themes related to victims–human rights of the victims and truth. (See Acuerdo general here.)

Presidential Debates

Meanwhile, the electoral campaign is in its final stretch.  The polls continue to show the presidential candidates Juan Manuel Santos and Oscar Iván Zuluaga at a stalemate.  A Gallup poll yesterday shows Zuluaga ahead by 48.5% to Santos’s 47.7%– less than a percentage point (with a 5% margin of error).  A Datexco poll gives Santos the lead with 41.9% to Zuluaga’s 37.7% with a 2.83% margin of error.  Both of the candidates are looking to get out the vote.

Last night Caracol television hosted a debate between the candidates that touched on their positions on security, peace, justice, education, and the economy.  The discussion on the peace process comes in at 10 minutes 20 seconds into the first video below.  While María Angela Villamizar, the Director of Confidencial Colombia, tried to get the candidates to commit to a state peace policy regardless of who wins the election, neither candidate addressed her concern that the process could be ended after the elections.  President Santos noted that “peace is more difficult than war,” and requires a certain methodology and rigor.  “We have advanced more in four years than in the previous 46 years,” he said.  Santos underscored the need to change the culture to a culture of peace.  (See the second video with the closing arguments below.)  Santos called on the electorate to give him a mandate for peace.

Zuluaga for his part said, “I want a negotiated peace, based on conditions.”  (See my last blogs for a list of his conditions.)  “The FARC have always tricked Colombia and have not shown a real will for peace.”   Zuluaga emphasized that peace was not just about the   FARC, but more comprehensive, including education and housing.

A key point for the future of the peace process relates to the assessment of each candidates as to the nature of the conflict in Colombia.  Santos’s assessment that Colombia has an internal armed conflict that must be resolved through a negotiated, political settlement contrasts with Zuluaga’s assessment that the problem is one of terrorism.


About Ginny Bouvier

Love reading, writing, thinking, and working with people to make the world a better place. Family and friends, yoga, travel, photography, perusing dessert menus keep me sane. Latin American enthusiast. Peace practitioner yearning for justice. Heading up the Colombia program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, but tweets and posts are my own.
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2 Responses to Victims on the Agenda and at the Table; Presidential Debates

  1. luzhelena07 says:

    Ginny, to the summary on the last presidential debate, I would add, there was a notably large difference between the two candidates. The question on international relations. It is clear that Zuluaga´s offerings have to do with setting the borders of Colombia on fire, again. They propose to convert the country in a kind of regional guardians of a democratic card.This is against the current peace process and against right to sovereignity of each country. Fire diplomacy, and most certainly going back to incendiary confrontations through the media. Imagine Uribe as senator!. In relation to the Havana talks, as of today, there is a great advancement, a historical one, one that changes dramatically FARC lines on victims. From the part of the government there is an acceptance to a Comisión de la Verdad that starts from the thirties in the last century. This coming days son de infarto.


    • Thank you Luz Helena–so much rides on these elections for the peace process. WHile one hopes that either side will pursue a peace agenda at home and abroad, the styles of the candidates are quite different and likely to produce quite different results.


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