November 14, 2016
Forty-one days after voters rejected a peace deal to end Colombia’s half-century old armed conflict, Colombian government and FARC-EP negotiators announced late Sunday night that they had completed a revised agreement. (See the joint communiqué here.) The latest accord is the product of negotiations in Havana on proposals gathered in what lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle called a “profound exercise of dialogue.” (See his statement here.) “Once more we have proven that, despite differences and distinct visions, it is possible to arrive at common ground through dialogue,” noted De la Calle.
FARC lead negotiator Iván Márquez, for his part, named the new agreement the “Accord of Hope” and noted, “We understood that … we had the political commitment to accept the adverse result [of the plebiscite] and to listen to the multiple voices that brought it about… We are aware that the transformative power of the accords rests on their political and social legitimacy.” (See his statement here.)
The new accord comes following a lengthy consultation process, what President Juan Manuel Santos called a “broad national dialogue.” The dialogue began the day after voters rejected an earlier peace agreement signed on Sept. 26 in Cartagena by a margin of some 54,000 votes in an Oct. 2 plebiscite that had an abstention rate of more than 60 %. In its aftermath, President Santos and his team met regularly with the leading political, religious, and social leaders who represented the 6 million voters who opposed the Cartagena peace accord. In particular, they solicited and obtained proposals for improving the accords from Democratic Center Party Senator and former President Alvaro Uribe, former President Andrés Pastrana, ex-Minister of Defense and Conservative Party leader Marta Lucía Ramírez, former Comptroller General Alejandro Ordóñez, leaders of the Catholic and other Christian faiths, victims of the FARC-EP, and business leaders, among others. Likewise, President Santos and his team consulted widely with and received recommendations from the high courts and magistrates, victims’ organizations, the women’s movement, Afro-descent and indigenous groups, youth, and retired military and police officers.
As a result of these dialogues, the government received some 500 proposals. They reviewed and sorted these into groupings according to 57 themes, and the government’s negotiating team returned to Havana to discuss them with their FARC-EP counterparts. After two weeks of intense discussions, word came from Havana late Saturday night that the parties had reached a new agreement. The agreement was released to the public in the wee hours this morning. (Read it here.)
Analysis of the components of the agreement will be forthcoming, but it is noteworthy here that the new accord modifies or changes 56 of the 57 proposed themes discussed with the FARC-EP. (See Santos’s statement here.) Many concessions appear to have been made by the FARC, and one red line to which the FARC held firm is their right to be elected to public office.
Scenarios for Approval
President Santos will have the final word and authority to decide on the mechanism for endorsement of the accord. Three scenarios appear to be under consideration. First, the President could call for a new plebiscite, a costly procedure that would run a risk that the public would again reject the new accord. While on a State visit in London earlier this month, President Santos suggested a second option. This would put the peace agreement to a vote by the Congress, an elected body that could represent the broader public. Here, Santos’s coalition has a healthy majority, so there is little doubt that the agreements would be approved. Finally, the idea of a process of local endorsement in each of Colombia’s 1100 municipalities through cabildos abiertos, or municipal council meetings with the direct participation of the citizenry, was resurrected last week by former Justice Minister Yesid Reyes. (See more here.) This too appears to be a viable option.
Other mechanisms are emerging from the ground up. Since the plebiscite, the country has experienced massive mobilizations spearheaded initially by youth and accompanied by women, victims, human rights and peace organizations, indigenous and Afro-descent communities, religious sectors, and artists. A sustained public presence, including peace tents in downtown areas, has been calling on the parties to revise the agreement and move to its implementation as quickly as possible. The public came into the streets en masse over the weekend to celebrate the latest news and there are new proposals being generated to maintain a public presence as a mechanism of informal endorsement of the accords. One initiative under discussion is to gather 10 million signatures in a campaign to provide a ringing public endorsement of the accords.
What Happens Now?
A key question is whether the new final accord will be accepted as final and definitive. President Santos has ordered his negotiating team to return to Bogota and be available to explain any outstanding concerns to the No leadership. Senator Uribe, via his Twitter account, called on Santos a few days ago to make the full texts known first to the No spokespersons and the victims, and not to consider them “definitive” until they had had a chance to study the new agreements and recommend new modifications, if need. (See more here.) It is unclear whether he will seek to draw out this process further. Many already consider the agreement to be definitive and are clamoring for its implementation.
The clock is ticking. The Congressional term ends on December 16, and some 50 pieces of legislation will need to be approved for implementation of the accords to move forward. The roller coaster continues and we are coasting into the next turn. Hang on tight…