Colombia: A Negotiated Peace?
6 April 2012: Guerrilla group FARC released its last military and police hostages this week, raising hopes that progress might be made toward a negotiated end to Colombia's half century old internal armed conflict. Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group's Latin America Program Director, looks at how the administration of President Santos and the international community can build a model for negotiations, peace, and transitional justice. 4:31
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Welcome to this podcast from the International Crisis Group. I'm Ben Dalton, Communications & IT Officer. In February, Colombian guerrilla group FARC pledged to end its longstanding practice of kidnapping for ransom, a promise partially fulfilled early this week when the group released its remaining military and police captives. Some see the move as signaling the beginning of the end of Colombia's half-century old internal armed conflict. I spoke earlier with Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group's Latin America Program Director, about how the Colombian government and FARC can move toward a negotiated peace.
So, Javier, realistically, what model for negotiation, peace and transitional justice can be built in Colombia?
The internal armed conflict in Colombia is an asymmetrical war. The government has taken the initiative both in political terms but also in terms of military achievements and gains. Therefore, the situation in Colombia is quite different from the one we had in 1998, when the last peace effort was implemented and failed.
The kind of peace that Colombia could have will combine three elements. First, strong initiatives from the government, particularly for victims and land restitution programs. Second, a transitional justice mechanism that can combine truth, reparation and justice and bring former combatants into some sort of political participation. And third, a very strong economic and social program to develop the areas most affected by the war, which are also the poorest and the more excluded in the country.
How can Colombia prevent other violent and illegal groups from filling the gap left by FARC and ELN as they demobilize?
It is very important to remind the last experience of a demobilization process in Colombia, which happened in 2005-06, when the former paramilitary went into the so called peace and justice process. The process was a success in terms of demobilizing these persons and getting a very important quota of truth and reparation for victims. But it has been a failure in terms of pacifying effectively the places where the paramilitaries used to be. The new so called criminal gangs, or new criminal organizations, have filled the vacuum.
So in order to prevent that from happening again after a peace process in Colombia, we have to take into account at least two issues. First, again, social development, economic development and a decisive fight against poverty is crucial to avoid the recruitment, particularly of the young people in the areas by new criminal groups. And second, to create incentives and job opportunities for the whole population in order to prevent that the mix between drug trafficking and armed activities appear again.
What would you say is the best way the international community can support the case for negotiated peace?
The international community can play a very important role in creating incentives for the government, but also for the guerrillas to go in to the table and discuss basic issues in a peace agenda. Depending on what kind of international community we're talking, we will see a strong support for the government or strong incentives for the guerrillas to find some sort of mediation for a peace process agreement.
But the second and perhaps most important role that the international community can play is going beyond the peace agreement and the peace truce that can be achieved and supporting very strong economic development in the area with focalized investments to prevent the armed groups from reappearing and drug traffickers just hiring new employees where the former were.
Edited for print