The Colombian peace process faces enormous challenges not discounting the possibility of its failure and the return to armed conflict. For the whole of its society, consolidating what has so far been achieved would certainly represent the greatest step forward in their recent history and the opportunity to embrace modernity after more than half a century of civil war.
Juan Diego García
The agreements do not constitute revolution but do certainly have significant impact. The heated reaction of the more conservative sectors is ample proof of it: land owners and established ranchers, politicians and civil servants privileged by an arcane political and administrative system sustained by violence and corruption, soldiers ensconced in the dirty war and businessmen profiting from the war all see their privileges under threat.
Until the new administration in Washington takes a stance on everything they are in the dark because Colombia has a special role in US military strategy in the region and what Trump decides will influence how things play out.
There, the US has military bases, special spy groups, and mercenary businesses, preferential ties with the cartels and alliances with paramilitary elements whether directly or via its Israeli and British partners. Too much then to ignore its direct and decisive involvement in the entire process.
It could be stated however that for the time being the positive factors are prevailing over some threats which persist and are substantial.
One of them is indeed the great weakness of the system as a whole if this is to be taken as the State and the different forms of civil society. In such circumstances, a great national resolution such as the peace process faces great limitations at its inception.
Indeed, the State is small and weak and lacks resources and presence in many sectors of the country; the political parties are not exactly paragons of integrity and their links with corruption and various forms of crime are public and notorious, including the criminal agreements of so many politicians with paramilitary forces. Parliament and the judiciary appear to be enormously discredited.
The Catholic Church, once a decisive body when it comes to forming (originally and conservatively) public opinion has not only seen its influence drastically diminished but rather puts up with competition from an endless number of Protestant sects with a message which is even more against modernity and democracy itself.
The Left has been decimated through the use of physical extermination, persecution, exile and very effective black propaganda.
This Left appears divided and conflicted so often by irrelevant debates and entirely unconstructive practices typical of other eras.
For its part, popular organisations – those which have managed to survive the dirty war and the extermination – suffer from similar problems although they certainly do have a far more positive overall record than the political Left across the board. For example, the extermination of the unionist movement, which according to the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) is the largest ever recorded in the world, is hardly spoken about.
But even with this, the popular organisations survive, showing signs of an unbreakable resistance. On the verge of becoming legal, the insurgents also have a positive overall record.
The guerrillas surprised their own and others with realistic proposals, fresh language and enough skill to avoid being provoked, away from the many stumbling blocks which emerged during the peace process.
Its current proposal of forming a broader front to save the agreements and curb the extreme Right might constitute a central factor in the political development of the country.
However, in Colombia, people scarcely take part in elections; abstention rates have been consistently high for at least half a century.
Hence, rallying this 60%+ of abstainers in favour of peace is a challenge for the whole of society – for this is the only way they will give their institutions the sufficient legitimacy they presently lack.
This will certainly be a decisive factor hence in rendering the civil war a thing of the past. The extreme Right is in the minority but could prevail at the ballot boxes if the forces championing peace turn out not to be up to the challenges. And winning at the ballot boxes is one of them.
(Translated by Nigel Conibear – DipTrans IoLET MCIL – firstname.lastname@example.org)