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En la cuerda floja: la fase final de las conversaciones de paz en Colombia
En la cuerda floja: la fase final de las conversaciones de paz en Colombia
Security and Electoral Perils for Colombia’s Peace Accord
Security and Electoral Perils for Colombia’s Peace Accord
Workers prepare a banner that reads “dialogues of peace" prior to a conference of victims of the Colombian armed conflict in Havana, on 16 August 2014. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

En la cuerda floja: la fase final de las conversaciones de paz en Colombia

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Resumen

Las negociaciones de paz entre el gobierno y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) entran en su etapa más difícil en un estado tanto de fragilidad como de fortaleza. La primera cualidad se puso de manifiesto el 22 de mayo, cuando el colapso del cese al fuego unilateral que mantuvo la guerrilla durante cinco meses desencadenó la peor escalada de violencia de los últimos años. La segunda quedó demostrada dos semanas más tarde, cuando los negociadores pusieron fin a un año de sequía sin grandes avances acordando el establecimiento de una comisión de la verdad. También parecían estar más cerca de llegar a un acuerdo adicional sobre reparaciones. Sin embargo, a pesar de estos avances, las negociaciones transitan en una cuerda floja. Para llevarlas a buen puerto, las partes deben retomar un camino eficaz de desescalamiento de la violencia, en la perspectiva de un cese al fuego bilateral definitivo, que debería ocurrir solo una vez que estén suficientemente consolidadas las negociaciones sobre temas fundamentales de justicia transicional. Este enfoque gradual es la mejor apuesta para evitar que el proceso se enrede en la violencia, el deterioro del apoyo público y las profundas divisiones políticas.

Aunque ninguna de las dos partes se plantea actualmente abandonar las negociaciones, el entorno más amplio entraña riesgos. La violencia persistente genera nuevas emergencias humanitarias, alienta a los saboteadores y fortalece a los sectores más radicales. Con el creciente desgaste de la paciencia política, solo haría falta una chispa para suspender el proceso o desencadenar su ruptura. E incluso si se llegara a un acuerdo sobre reparaciones en breve, los negociadores aún se enfrentan a numerosos asuntos sumamente polémicos y conexos entre sí. Estos incluyen la responsabilidad judicial por los graves crímenes cometidos por ambas partes, el cese al fuego bilateral y la ratificación del acuerdo final. Las disputadas elecciones locales de octubre podrían debilitar aún más el centro político sobre el que tarde o temprano deberá asentarse cualquier acuerdo de paz duradero.

Maniobrar las negociaciones para sortear estos peligros desafía las soluciones fáciles. Las demandas por acelerar las negociaciones o imponer una fecha límite han ido en aumento. Lo cierto es que es no posible seguir como si no hubiera pasado nada. Las partes deberían considerar formas de avanzar más enérgicamente, entre otras dividir las actuales discusiones sobre víctimas y justicia transicional en acuerdos parciales de menor envergadura, adoptar un cronograma más ajustado, e involucrar más a los actores internacionales. Pero la aceleración como un fin en sí mismo conlleva riesgos. Precipitar un acuerdo podría satisfacer las demandas políticas, pero el acuerdo resultante bien podría resultar imposible de implementar y sería de eficacia limitada. De hecho, el ritmo pausado de las negociaciones simplemente refleja problemas más profundos, entre ellos las tensiones internas en ambos lados y un entorno político adverso. Las partes ya están corriendo contra el reloj para ratificar y comenzar a implementar los acuerdos finales antes de que finalice el mandato del presidente Santos en 2018, por lo que una fecha límite no sumaría mucho y podría conducir al proceso a un limbo si las negociaciones no logran cumplir el plazo establecido.

La escalada de violencia además ha intensificado los llamados a un cese al fuego bilateral inmediato. Esto eliminaría las amenazas que conllevan las persistentes hostilidades, pero aún no ha llegado el momento para ello. No hay acuerdo aún entre las partes sobre lo que significaría en la práctica un cese al fuego, y como demuestra claramente la ruptura de la tregua unilateral de las FARC, el cese definitivo de las hostilidades no será viable si los mecanismos y protocolos necesarios para sostenerlo no son plenamente aceptados por los líderes de ambos lados. E incluso si las partes pudieran acordarlos rápidamente, hay pocos indicios de que el acuerdo pueda ser implementado rápidamente. Lo más probable es que ni el gobierno ni las FARC estén en condiciones de aceptar los costos de un fin definitivo de las hostilidades mientras aún se estén discutiendo cuestiones fundamentales. Por lo tanto, un cese al fuego bilateral solo será un objetivo realista una vez que se haya alcanzado un acuerdo sobre el marco de justicia transicional.

El primer paso para superar las dificultades actuales debería ser más modesto. Las partes deben frenar urgentemente la escalada de hostilidades, empezando por ejercer el máximo autocontrol en el campo de batalla, entre otras cosas respetando estrictamente el derecho internacional humanitario. Esto debería ir acompañado de un nuevo impulso bilateral de desescalamiento, que incluya ampliar el actual programa de desminado y explorar las posibilidades de reducir las hostilidades de forma discreta y recíproca. Un desescalamiento conjunto crearía el espacio que requieren los negociadores y fomentaría la confianza mutua necesaria para sostener un eventual acuerdo de paz. Al mismo tiempo, las partes deberían acelerar las discusiones técnicas en La Habana sobre el “fin del conflicto”, a fin de elaborar una propuesta para la implementación de un cese al fuego bilateral inicial tras un acuerdo de justicia transicional. Este cese al fuego deberá incluir algún tipo de concentración regional de las FARC y monitoreo internacional; el acantonamiento pleno y la “dejación de armas”, o desarme, deberían seguir a la ratificación de los acuerdos finales. 

Un cese al fuego inicial pero no inmediato, de estas características, aceleraría el proceso y permitiría a las partes iniciar la implementación de algunos de los temas de la agenda; otros podrían integrarse al proceso político más amplio, incluida la comisión de la verdad. Un cese de fuego también ayudaría a profundizar el arraigo político del proceso. El gobierno tiene mucho margen para enviar mensajes más coherentes, consecuentes y convincentes, y el apoyo de la comunidad internacional seguirá siendo fundamental frente a la disminución del apoyo nacional.  Pero superar el desinterés, escepticismo e indiferencia generalizados será difícil mientras las hostilidades continúen. Un cese al fuego crearía nuevas posibilidades de ampliar las bases políticas de las negociaciones. En una fase posterior, esto podría incluir la transferencia de las negociaciones, o parte de ellas, de Cuba a Colombia.

En medio de una nueva ola de violencia, y ante la disminución del apoyo político, es fácil olvidar los logros obtenidos. Los negociadores han avanzado considerablemente en lo relativo a las raíces y los principales efectos del conflicto. Los más de tres años de negociaciones confidenciales y públicas también han creado una noción compartida de que la transición es posible. Más que replantear lo que ha funcionado, la vía más prometedora es hacer uso de estos logros y fortalezas.

Bogotá/Brussels, 2 de julio de 2015

Security and Electoral Perils for Colombia’s Peace Accord

Growing distrust of Colombia’s outgoing government combined with deteriorating security in rural areas is undermining faith in the country’s peace accord. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to engage with opposition leaders to discuss the costs of ditching the deal.

This commentary on security and electoral perils for Colombia's peace accord is part of our annual early-warning report Watch List 2018.

Colombia’s 2018 presidential and congressional elections can be understood in part as a second plebiscite on the government’s peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a crucial test of that deal’s resilience. Although voters narrowly rejected the accord in October 2016, it was then amended to include opposition proposals and approved two months later by Congress.

The outgoing government of President Juan Manuel Santos (who is ineligible to run for a third term) is deeply unpopular. High-level corruption scandals within both the government and the judiciary, as well as anaemic economic growth, have eroded not only Santos’ support, but the legitimacy of the political system as a whole. Partly as a result, about 30 contenders have entered the presidential race, the majority campaigning as independents outside formal political party structures. Opinion polls reveal highly fragmented voting preferences revolving around a group of six to eight main candidates. Sergio Fajardo, a centre-left former mayor who supports the peace agreement, has been leading the polls, followed by Iván Duque, from former President Álvaro Uribe’s party, who staunchly opposes it. Far-left candidate Gustavo Petro and right-wing Germán Vargas Lleras, in favour of and against the peace accord, respectively, are jostling for third place, although the latter has the advantage of a large patronage network.

The peace deal may be the dominant issue in a possible second round of presidential voting. Government supporters rightly point to the accord’s achievements: the FARC’s handover of arms and the establishment of a new, legal political party by guerrillas. Most importantly, violence has clearly decreased since peace talks began in 2012. But implementation of the rest of the agreement has advanced more slowly than expected in a climate of guerrilla mistrust and opposition hostility. Former combatants doubt the government’s commitment and ability to make new institutions effective, or pass about 30 more laws needed to implement the agreement. The government had only been able to get the Congress to approve ten of them by the end of 2017. Congressional resistance to the agreement, above all its transitional justice provisions, has grown with the approach of legislative elections in March 2018.

Following the FARC’s demobilisation, the army, navy and police were expected to quickly establish state presence and stabilise territories where the guerrillas had operated for decades. Instead, other armed groups have seized the opportunity to establish control over rural communities and criminal rackets.

Disappointment with the peace agreement is understandable given the scope of its ambitions. It promised to resolve the underlying causes of the five-decade war through rural reform, offer redress for victims through transitional justice, open up the political system and introduce incentives to reduce cultivation of illicit crops. Following the FARC’s demobilisation, the army, navy and police were expected to quickly establish state presence and stabilise territories where the guerrillas had operated for decades. Instead, other armed groups have seized the opportunity to establish control over rural communities and criminal rackets. These groups are suspected in most of the 170 killings of community leaders during 2017.

These groups include the remaining guerrilla force, the National Liberation Army (ELN), present mainly along the Venezuelan border and Pacific coast; approximately ten FARC dissident fronts in several regions; and armed bands linked exclusively to drug trafficking activities, such as the Gaitán Self-Defence Forces (AGC), based principally in the north-western Urabá region. In Tumaco, a poor city in south-west Colombia and a hub for cocaine exports via the Pacific, three FARC dissident groups are vying for control, killing suspected rivals or anyone refusing to make extortion payments. Twelve people were murdered there in the first three days of January 2018, most of them killed along main roads in broad daylight.

Challenges to implementing the accord

To implement the peace accords in coming months, authorities face three main challenges: providing security in many rural areas, reintegrating former FARC fighters and convincing farmers to substitute licit for illicit crops.

The government initially planned to improve security with mobile army and police operations, but this half-measure allowed armed groups simply to retreat and wait for state forces to leave. The army announced a new plan in December 2017 (Plan Orus) that would send security forces on a permanent basis to over 500 prioritised villages throughout the country.

In the meantime, peace negotiations with the ELN have been hampered by lack of trust at the negotiating table and a general atmosphere of public scepticism or apathy. The government recently reshuffled its negotiating team to speed up progress, though attacks by the ELN on other armed groups have undermined public support for talks. On 9 January, the ELN failed to extend the ceasefire in place since October, and resumed a campaign of violence including oil pipeline bombings, kidnappings and the killing of members of state forces, principally in the eastern department of Arauca. Efforts to renegotiate the ceasefire are now afoot.

Meanwhile, former FARC fighters must be reintegrated into society to prevent them from reverting to organised violence, but the process has advanced at a snail’s pace. There is still no national reintegration plan, which means that progress generally depends on the initiative of local FARC commanders. There is also no national-level education program for former fighters, except one financed and implemented by the international community. Part of the government would prefer to shift FARC ex-combatants into the highly successful individual reintegration program, which has been used previously for demobilised paramilitary combatants and guerrilla deserters. The FARC, however, wants to pursue a collective integration model, as outlined under the accords. It has set up an economic cooperative, but still has not put any business projects into action.

The government is beginning to implement the peace agreement’s crop substitution program, which provides farmers who stop growing coca with up to $12,000 in financial and technical assistance. Some 123,000 coca-growing families have signed agreements to take part in the program, including about 30,000 who have already received their first financial assistance payment. But the program requires funding beyond what the Colombian state is likely to provide: it would cost about $2 billion to offer assistance to 170,000 families. For international donors, including the EU, to support this program, robust donor coordination around its objectives and methods will be crucial.

Crop substitution should allow the state to establish a presence and legitimacy in remote rural areas. But the effort is undermined by continued forced eradication, which reduces cultivation only temporarily. These coercive efforts sparked protests in Guaviare and Catatumbo in September 2017, and violent clashes in Tumaco, where police reportedly killed seven farmers in October. Neither effort appears to be curbing coca production, which is booming. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, there were 146,000 hectares under cultivation in 2016, up from 96,000 in 2015.

Recommendations

Given an electorate that remains divided over the 2016 peace agreement, Colombia may elect a leader in 2018 who opposes implementing the accord in whole or in part. Avoiding such a scenario depends on, first, whether the government can communicate peace dividends to a predominantly urban society unaffected in recent years by conflict; second, whether the FARC accepts transitional justice mechanisms in good faith; and, third, whether pro-peace agreement candidates are able to address other public concerns, especially corruption.

The EU and its member states have long supported Colombia’s peace process, both financially, through the EU Trust Fund for Colombia, and diplomatically, with the EU special envoy. It now needs to adjust to a more adverse political climate. EU engagement with opposition leaders, highlighting the costs of not implementing the accord, would be important, as would EU readiness to adapt its financial support to shore up those parts of the accord that risk being neglected or downplayed by a new government.

Peace talks with the ELN in Quito have so far advanced little and are now at a standstill, which means the next president could halt the process without incurring much political cost. For negotiations to progress, the ceasefire needs to be renegotiated and preferably last at least until the presidential elections. Of the eleven countries accompanying the process as guarantors or “friends”, four are EU members: Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden. They should use their influence to encourage the ELN – which appreciates the legitimacy they bestow on the talks – to negotiate a new and improved ceasefire. A complete cessation of violence by the ELN might also shift Colombian opinion in favour of the process and prompt the next government pressured to continue it.

EU engagement with opposition leaders, highlighting the costs of not implementing the accord, would be important, as would EU readiness to adapt its financial support to shore up those parts of the accord that risk being neglected or downplayed by a new government.

Lastly, the Colombian government has considered creating “judicial submission” processes. These would allow other armed groups – such as the neo-paramilitary Gaitán Self-Defence Forces, which has offered to lay down its arms and imposed a unilateral ceasefire with surprising levels of compliance – to surrender to the courts in exchange for more lenient sentences and, potentially, development programs for the regions in which they were based. Congress has yet to draft and pass a law for the voluntary surrender of such groups, which would have to be flexible enough to fit each one’s particular internal hierarchy and interests, while also guaranteeing improved security and economic conditions in the areas where these groups operate.

Colombia has endured armed conflict since 1948. It still has the opportunity to make historic advances toward peace by implementing the agreement with the FARC; negotiating with the ELN; and creating a “judicial submission” process acceptable to other armed groups. But to do so, it needs international support, including EU resources and diplomatic engagement. This will be especially important in 2018, when Colombians will cast votes in elections that could determine whether and how the peace process survives.