September 23. 2015
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced this morning via his Twitter account that he will travel to Cuba today to meet with the negotiators in Havana. The unanticipated visit to the peace table is fueling expectations of an announcement about an agreement on transitional justice and there is talk that there may be a meeting with Timochenko, the top leader of the FARC. Stay tuned!
41st Cycle Ends
Last Thursday, September 17, as the world’s first Latin American Pope prepared to visit Cuba and the United States, the Colombian government and the FARC-EP finished up a productive cycle of peace talks. In a joint communiqué, the parties announced that during the 41st round they continued to work on themes relating to victims and the end of the conflict, two of the three pending agenda items, and that they will resume talks on September 28.
A Comprehensive System for Victims’ Rights
In June 2015, the parties agreed to create a Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Co-Existence (Convivencia), and Non-Repetition, “an independent, impartial mechanism of an extra-judicial character,” to be established once the final peace accord is signed. They envisioned the commission as “part of the comprehensive system of truth, justice and non-repetition” being crafted to “meet the rights of the victims, end the conflict, and achieve peace.” Victims have now submitted more than 24,000 proposals to the peace table in Havana, more than one third of which relate to victims’ right to the “truth.” The parties have committed themselves to establishing other complementary judicial and extra-judicial mechanisms, which are now being negotiated.
A new advisory group on transitional justice installed in Havana for the 41st cycle has been helping the parties in Havana to develop these mechanisms. According to Iván Márquez, the FARC’s lead negotiator, their efforts are yielding success. At the beginning of the cycle on Sept. 11, Márquez noted, “In only seven days, the Juridical Sub-commission has placed us at the threshold of a new agreement on Justice, as a component of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition.
In recent days, there have been hints in the press that an agreement on transitional justice is nearly complete. This is the likely the reason for Santos’s unanticipated stopover in Havana on his way to the United Nations General Assembly meetings. Just yesterday, Santos himself implied that an agreement was forthcoming, when he noted: “It doesn’t matter where the line is drawn between justice and peace, everyone is not going to be happy. …some will want more peace, others will want more justice, and we are in this negotiation right now… no one can remain completely happy, but the change is going to be very positive.”
Ending the Conflict
During the 41st cycle, the joint Technical Sub-commission on Ending the Conflict, composed of five Colombian generals and one admiral, as well as commanders in the FARC Secretariat and the High Central Command, continued to work on the terms for a definitive bilateral ceasefire. Jean Arnaud, special representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, and José Bayardi, representative of the President pro-tempore of UNASUR (currently held by Uruguay), joined the sub-commission discussions, as requested by the peace delegations. Arnold and Bayardi lend the process operational expertise as well as the imprimatur and institutional support of the international community.
FARC Discusses Setting Aside Arms
Of major importance during the 41st cycle was the FARC’s confirmation that they are prepared to set aside their arms, the second of the seven sub-points related to the agenda item of ending the conflict. FARC leader Iván Márquez announced that the FARC-EP is “ready to address and discuss the procedures for the move from an armed insurgency (“organización alzada en armas”) to an open political movement.” This is a significant advance, as the question of FARC’s willingness to forswear the use of arms has been a lightning rod for debates throughout the peace process.
Security concerns for a transition to civilian life will need to be adequately addressed, as will the cultivation of a climate more propitious for reintegration. In 1984, when a peace process between the Belisario Betancur government and the FARC produced the agreement that created the Unión Patriótica, the civilian movement from which ex-FARC combatants participated in politics, security guarantees were sadly lacking and thousands of UP militants, including two presidential candidates and many local leaders, were killed with virtual impunity.
Concentration of Troops
Most immediately under discussion have been the issues of the identification and concentration of troops, and the establishment of monitoring and verification mechanisms. The FARC have given the government a proposal to identify 50 rural areas (including, according to press reports, Cauca, Putumayo, Meta, Chocó, norte de Antioquia y Norte de Santander) where guerrillas might be concentrated. The government has yet to respond officially to the proposal.
Promising Prospects for an Accord
By all indications, a peace accord is within reach, and an agreement on transitional justice will be another milestone toward that goal. While obstacles may still appear on the path, the Havana process seems solid and international support is firmly behind it. Carlos Lozano, head of the Technical Subcommission for the FARC, underscored the shift that has taken place at the table. In his welcoming remarks to the UN and UNASUR delegates he observed, “As you can imagine, breaking through the distrust that has grown in more than half a century of cruel confrontations is not something that happens overnight or without shocks; nonetheless, we can assure that in both delegations there is political will, candor, transparency, and the resolute decision to bequeath future generations a country [that is] more just, at peace, in full democracy [and] that enjoys the respect and recognition of the international community. That ideal converts into an incentive that overcomes all obstacles.”