July 11, 2014
After a period of intense activity and major breakthroughs in content and process at the peace table in the weeks before the presidential elections on June 15 (and with a period of national celebration for Colombia’s outstanding performance in the World Cup in Brazil), the Havana peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP will resume next Tuesday, July 15. In early June, the parties had announced an invitation for a delegation of victims to join the table when they convened for their discussion on victims, the next item on the agenda in the Havana talks. Government and FARC delegates held preparatory meetings in Havana on July 6 and 7th to discuss the format for participation of victims at the table. (See their joint communiqué here.) The parties have already reached agreement on rural agrarian development, political participation, and drug trafficking and illicit crops.
Victims at the Table
The question of which victims will participate in the delegation to Havana and how is a complicated one. The participants in the delegation are in the process of being identified. With more than 6.5 million victims registered with the government’s Victims’ Unit, and tremendous diversity among them, it will be difficult to ensure complete representation at the table.
At this point, it seems likely that 15 delegates of the National Victims Table (Mesa Nacional de Víctimas) will join the peace talks in Havana. Three types of representation appear likely. First, representation of a sample of different kinds of victimization–forced displacement or eviction, forced disappearances, destruction of homes and personal effects, injury or death from land mines, kidnappings, torture, sexual violence, homicide, and recruitment of youths. Second, the delegation will include representatives from diverse sectors that have been victimized (such as women, indigenous, Afro-Colombians). Third, the delegation will include victims of different actors–paramilitaries, guerrillas, and the State. Regional representation will probably need to be addressed as well.
The victims’ groups are meeting and working to come to consensus about who will go to Havana and what proposals will be put forth. Some victims are urging the table to broaden the participation to include more than 15 representatives. Others are calling for the creation of a sub commission on forced disappearances and another on those who have been kidnap victims. Others are hoping to present questions about particular cases.
In addition to the invitation for a victims’ delegation to join the peace table Havana, the peace delegations had asked the National University and the United Nations to conduct a series of forums to give victims in different regions the opportunity to make recommendations to the table. On July 4 and 5, the two entities held the first of four forums on victims in Villavicencio in the department of Meta. The Villavicencio forum was attended by about 400 victims, who produced some 450 proposals.
Additional regional forums are being held in Barrancabermeja today and tomorrow (July 10 and 11), and in Barranquilla on July 17 and 18. A national forum will be held in Cali from August 3-5. These forums are being held at the request of the Havana delegations to generate inputs for the peace talks. Some 1,600 victims of all of paramilitary, guerrilla, and State violence are expected to participate in the forums.
Polls Show Increased Support for Negotiations
New polls done in late June suggest that public sentiment favoring the peace talks has gained ground. A Gallup survey showed an increase between May and June from 64% to 72% in the number of respondents who favor negotiations. The survey also showed an increase from 45% to 55% during the same time frame of those who believe a peace agreement will be signed. A Datexco poll showed similar findings, with respondents who believe the process will produce results rising from 30% to 52% since March. (For more information on the surveys, click here.) The increased support for the peace talks may be related to the Colombian government’s accelerated campaign effort to educate the public about the peace process, the announcement that victims’ proposals would be considered at the table, and, not to be underestimated, Colombia’s glowing performance in the preliminaries for the World Cup.
In the meantime, ex-Senator Piedad Córdoba, leader of the Marcha Patriótica, denounced an attack by the Colombian Army on the home of Angel Torres, a member of the directorate of the Marcha Patriótica, a social-political movement of the left legalized two years ago. In January this year, Córdoba had reported 29 deaths of Marcha Patriotic members and 3 disappearances. On Wed., July 9th, she noted that she has documented an additional 30 killings in the past six months, and noted that the Marcha Patriótica threw its support behind President Juan Manuel Santos in exchange for the promise of a more protected space to engage in politics. This is a key point related to an earlier item on the peace agenda–that of guarantees for exercising opposition. A worrisome trend, indeed.