Friday, 26 August 2016

Colombia's Chamberlain-esque peace?

On the face of it, it seems like a no-brainer. On October 2nd Colombians are going to be asked to vote either 'yes' or 'no' for peace. That is to say, to give their backing to a deal finally reached between the government and the leftist-styled Farc rebels to end a bloody internal conflict that has troubled the country for over 50 years. Apart from the sadistic amongst us, who wouldn't vote in the affirmative?

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the peace president ...
President Santos' peace, but not for all Colombians?
Of course, it's just not that simple, even if, perhaps, it should be. You see, there is a belief that what has been brokered by the negotiators in Cuba in many ways doesn't reflect the reality on the ground in Colombia. A political agreement that looks fine and dandy on paper and allows the 'warring' leaders come together in brotherly love (it has pretty much been male-dominated), but a deal practically not worth the paper it's written on in 'normal Colombia', the very place it's meant to bring about real, positive change. That's a view you won't have to search hard to find among the masses.

We've written plenty here before about the problems inherent in this process, one of those being the idea that the Farc leaders who negotiated this deal do not speak for the majority under their control (if ‘control’ is the right word to use here at all). Indeed, with political positions in the offing for the few Farc dealmakers of Havana, their lives might just be about to become a whole lot easier. The same cannot be said for the 'foot soldiers'.

This is one source of scepticism towards the whole process for Colombians; it's especially to be found among the lower classes and away from the big cities (as we mentioned in a previous post). The idea is that those who may fly under the Farc banner today will just continue on in criminality post this peace deal being ratified, if that should happen. Plus, you have those who were never Farc members, be they fellow 'leftists' or from the right, who have made a tidy living from both controlling and living in what you could call a separate state from the elected one headed by Juan Manuel Santos. Colombia's black market can be quite profitable.

What's more, there are those, headed vociferously by former president, the hawkish Álvaro Uribe, who view this as Santos' peace, not one that truly represents Colombia at large (el pueblo Colombiano). With Santos' approval rating low, a protest 'no' vote is a distinct possibility to add to the other genuine causes for concern that Colombians have about the process.

Most people know that true peace is not going to come with the simple signing of an agreement and a ceasefire. There are a host of deeper obstacles to arriving at a situation where peace and stability can thrive in Colombia. At the heart of those is the vast inequality that exists in the country, something that, it appears, no government has been willing or able to pay proper attention to.

That aside, that some of Colombia's men of violence have decided to give peace a chance has to be seen as a positive development, better than the status quo. Yes, officialdom was duped before, but a Neville Chamberlain returning from Nazi-run Germany in 1938 with a 'peace for our time' type of agreement this is not. This particular deal has some substance to it. 

For sure, it's far from perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. The hope must be that it is a modicum of peace to achieve more peace.

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