August 24, 2016
The suitcase has been ready and there have been several false alarms, but last night it was confirmed that tonight will be the night. A final peace agreement, pending a few items, has been reached in Havana. The negotiating teams are expected to spend the day today reviewing the final version and addressing a few pending details. The negotiators will announce the deal from Havana at 6 pm (7 pm EST) and President Juan Manuel Santos will follow with the official announcement tonight at 7 pm (8pm EST). Then the negotiations in Havana will then shut down and the work will shift to Colombia, where Colombians will vote in a plebiscite on whether they are ready to close the chapter on a war that has lasted more than half a century. A historic moment. Amazing to be here in Bogota and about to head down to 59th and 7a, where the big screens will broadcast to crowds these momentous events.
For days, the newspapers here in Bogota and the social media have been buzzing with the news that a final peace deal was about to be reached. The buzz had gotten so loud that on Monday, August 22, the peace teams in Havana issued a joint communiqué advising that the teams had advanced but there were still some outstanding issues, and the public would know as soon as they had a final agreement. (See communiqué 92).
The teams have been working non-stop in Havana since August 17, with the instruction not to stop until they had a final agreement. Reinforcements, including key Congressional and administration leaders, had been sent in at the beginning of this session. (See my previous post.) With a new methodology that delegated the remaining topics to different commissions, advances were mad. Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo flew to New York to put the final touches on the arrangements for the UN political mission which will be launched with the signing of an agreement.
Clemencia Carabalí, from the Proceso de Comunidades Negras in Cauca, told me that six Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders from the Ethnic Commission for Peace and Defense of Territorial Rights were tapped to travel to Havana yesterday to meet with the negotiating teams. These ethnic leaders hope to ensure that their concerns about anticipated conflicts that a peace agreement could exacerbate could still be taken into consideration. A communiqué from the commission issued yesterday read: “History would not understand that the Government had not taken measures on time to facilitate the participation of our peoples, in spite of our demands, the disproportionate violations of which we have been and continue to be victims, the calls from the international community, the conclusions of the negotiating table itself, and the large history of exclusion and racism to which our peoples have been subjected.” (Quoted in El Espectador.) It is a hopeful and important sign that they were received today.
One of the biggest blocks was the theme of amnesty for the guerrillas. Last Friday, the negotiators, with the help of Enrique Santiago and Manuel José Cepeda, legal advisors for the FARC and government, respectively, found a solution that was accepted by both sides. Under their formula, the FARC agreed that the amnesty law could be processed after the plebiscite. The FARC had long resisted concentrating their troops and decommissioning their arms without legal safeguards provided by such a law. More details should be forthcoming in tonight’s announcements. In addition the issue of FARC participation in the Congress will be clarified. (See latest here.)
The plenipotentiaries are expected to sign the agreement tonight in Havana, but the official signing is not expected until after the FARC hold their tenth (and last) Conference. Like the plebiscite where Colombians will vote on whether or not to accept the peace deal, FARC troops too will hear about and vote on the peace accord.
The next big hurdle will be the Plebiscite, but for now, a pause for a moment of collective celebration and appreciation for all those who have worked so hard to make this possible.
Stay tuned for more…