Sunday, December 11, 2016

5.3 - Good News: peace settlement in Colombia

Good News: peace settlement in Colombia

One other piece of Good News, which I am calling Good News even though it does not involve the sense of relief that Good News often entails. You will quickly see what I mean.

Back in August, I re-wrote part of a show to fit in the breaking news that after four years of negotiations, Colombia and the rebel group called FARC had reached a final peace deal to end an internal war that had gone on for more than 50 years, killed more than 220,000 people, and driven somewhere between 5 and 8 million more from their homes.

I noted that the deal had to be approved in a plebiscite on October 2, so it was not a done deal for certain, but I said it was hard to imagine why in the face of that history anyone other than a bitter dead-ender would say no.

But it turned out there were enough bitter dead-enders. The plebiscite lost. Narrowly, but it lost. That so broke my heart to think of people so determined to continue the killing, so focused on bloody vengeance, that I never even covered the failure on the show even though I had covered the original agreement.

Now, maybe, I'm afraid to consider the possibility, but here we go again.

Just over a week ago the Colombian Congress formally ratified a revised peace agreement with FARC, capping four years of negotiations, a rejected referendum, last-minute compromises, and two signing ceremonies.

This time, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos skipped a referendum and went directly to Congress. That angered opponents, who don't like the agreement because it is not harsh enough on FARC for them. They don't want an agreement or a treaty or a peace, they want FARC to be treated like a conquered enemy.

Those opponents knew they were in the minority in Congress, so, led by former president, now senator, Alvaro Uribe, they boycotted the legislative votes, creating doubt over just how stable this new peace will be.

Part of the problem is that although the Congress ratified the peace accord, it still must pass separate laws in order to implement it, including starting the process in which the FARC rebels gather in 20 rural areas and turn over their weapons to UN observers.

Adam Isacson, a Colombia expert with the Washington Office on Latin America, said the cease-fire could deteriorate during the time it takes to get the measures through the legislative system, a period of time that could be several weeks or even some months.

For one thing, there is concern that some FARC fighters, rather than surrender their weapons, could elect to join the much-smaller rebel National Liberation Army, which has yet to open a peace process of its own with the government. On the other hand, there are fears of attacks by right-wing militias, which killed thousands of former guerrillas and labor activists following a previous peace process with the FARC in the 1980s.

Even so, even so, there is another chance to finally put an end to this madness. Unhappily, that depends on the accession of those who it appears by their opposition to it have been driven mad. Happily, theirs are not the only voices. So let's hope - because being able to have hope is how you can have Good News.

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