Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Word that something was up in the Colombian peace talks began filtering out quickly this morning. A government colleague warned me to stay tuned for an announcement later today. A friend in academia told me there was a pending agreement on the justice issue. By 8 am, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos had put out a tweet blast that he was adding a stopover in Havana to meet with the negotiators before his scheduled trip to New York for the UN General Assembly meetings. Minute by minute, expectations grew. “Timochenko,” the FARC’s top commander, had arrived on the island and rumors flew of an impending tete-a-tete. By 11 am, when Santos’s military jet departed for Havana, it carried not only Santos and his presidential team, but also the heads of the Colombian Senate and Congress, and leaders of virtually all of the major political parties and movements. Only one party was conspicuous by its absence–that of former President Alvaro Uribe, whose Centro Democrático party has been a long-time opponent of the peace talks. By noon, the Colombian media was announcing that a long-awaited agreement on “victims,” the fourth of six items on the peace agenda, was imminent. News leaked later that President Santos was expected to announce the deadline by which the half-century long conflict would officially conclude.
By evening, the stage was set. From the Palacio de Convenciones in Havana, a special ceremony, carefully choreographed and rich in symbolism, unfolded with all the major players dressed in white. An unidentified woman from the Cuban Foreign Ministry welcomed the guests of honor. Raúl Castro, Cuba’s President of the Council of State and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba was flanked by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on his right and FARC Commander-in-Chief Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (aka “Timochenko”) on his left. Also present were Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez; the representatives of the Colombian government and the FARC-EP peace delegations; and representatives of Cuba, Norway, Chile, and Venezuela, the nations that served as guarantors and accompanied the process. The moderator turned the floor to Rodolfo Benitez and Dag Nylander, guarantors from Cuba and Norway, respectively, who read the joint communiqué that the peace delegations had crafted. (Read the full text of the communiqué in Spanish here or view my English translation: Joint Communiqué 60 on the Accord for the Creation for a Special Judicial Process for Peace.)
Following the reading of the agreement, lead negotiators Humberto de la Calle for the Government of Colombia, Iván Márquez for the FARC, the Cuban and Norwegian guarantors, and the Chilean and Venezuelan delegates all signed the agreement. Cuban Council of State President Raúl Castro turned the podium over to Santos and Timochenko for their comments. They each underscored their commitment to ending the conflict. President Santos announced that they have instructed their negotiators to produce a final peace agreement within the next 60 days. In turn, Timochenko announced that the FARC have agreed to set aside their arms in the subsequent 60 days after signing the agreement. Many details and challenges are yet to come, but for now, this was a historic day worth celebrating.
Below find the CNN interview that I did at 12:30 last night: