Recently, government negotiators and the FARC agreed on guarantees, conditions and support for the creation of new political parties to, essentially, funnel FARC negotiators and top leaders into political positions.
In the 1990s, the FARC tried out politics through the Patriotic Union party, which eventually saw the murder of 3,000 of its members. But while the UP was the facade of politics, the FARC continued to wage war — this time, both sides say a final peace accord would “imply the prohibition on using violence as a method of political action.” Take note of the word “imply,” and not “will enforce.”
The agreement calls for the creation of temporary congressional districts for the FARC, and are a way for the government to ensure the FARC a shot at winning elections. The special political quota are for those areas where the FARC have the most influence over the civilian population, where the presence of State authorities is weakest, and where there is not sufficient media presence. Will the quotas be a facade for further violence? Where is the guarantee the FARC’s politics will be divorced from the FARC’s violence?
Farc leader Ivan Marquez called the FARC’s metamorphosis into a political party “an important step in the right direction to end the conflict and to achieve a real democracy in Colombia.”
So far, the FARC, as well as paramilitaries and military members, are immune from prosecution for some of the worst atrocities.
There are so far 218 FARC members (8 of them Secretariat leaders) convicted in absentia of crimes against humanity.
Ivan Marquez speaks of building a real democracy. But in a true democracy, there are no free cards for human rights violators. In a functioning democracy, you commit the crime, you serve the time.
I express this concern because the right of free expression is also an important step to end the conflict and to achieve democracy in Colombia.
Does the creation of a new political party mean that human rights violators will be Colombia’s next governors, senators, congressmen and mayors? Is anyone else as shocked as I am? Frightened?
“The Colombian people have been waiting a long time for peace, but it will neither be durable nor just if a deal between the parties is based on immunity for atrocities,” said Jan Egeland, Europe director at Human Rights Watch.
Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo said victims can participate through comments on the web page — yes, victims, you are now being told that you have the right to comment on the web page!!
Jaramillo’s suggestion is not only disrespectful to victims but it is also not well thought-out as most victims live in rural communities or in the peripheral shantytowns of the main cities and do not have easy access to the internet.
Sergio Jaramillo also said eventually, at some other point down the road, perhaps, someone, who knows who, can think of a way to incorporate victims into a related forum.
In comes the international criminal court, thank goodness!!
The ICC is monitoring the situation in Colombia and has a mandate to open an investigation if Colombia is unwilling or unable genuinely to prosecute war crimes or crimes against humanity.
The FARC needs to be reminded of its roots: the FARC formed in 1964 from a group of peasants who armed themselves because they were victims of the State. (That’s the FARC’s version, not mine.) Will history replay itself? Will today’s victims arm themselves because they remain victims?
Even further back: the FARC say they were victims when in a 1958 treaty called the National Front, which ended the period of “La Violencia,” two white men from Bogotá’s Jockey Club agreed in a beach town in Spain that governing parties, Conservatives and Liberals, would alternate every four years, for a period of sixteen years, from 1958 to 1974. The National Front locked out any independents or any other political party, and the FARC’s leader, alias “Sureshot” (“Tirofijo”) expressed his outrage in a letter he wrote to then-president. Sureshot wrote, “ .. Our ‘crime’ that has earned us the rage of the oligarchy and of the military heads is our opposition to the bipartisan system of the oligarchic ‘National Front,’ which we consider anti-democratic and anti-national ..”*
To not provide justice for victims is both anti-democratic and anti-national. It will cause rage, and will this rage generate new violence?
In a poll taken by AmericasBarometer, a project of Vanderbilt University, conducted both on a national level and in a sample of 111 most-affected municipalities, more than half of respondents to the survey said they considered themselves victims of the conflict. Further, only around one in 15 respondents living in conflict areas would consider voting for a demobilized guerrilla in mayoral elections scheduled for 2015.
* Found in Jacobo Arenas, Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia. (Colombia: Abejo Mono, 1972.) P. 17. Also found in Arturo Alape, Las Vidas de Pedro Antonio Marín Manuel Marulanda Vélez Tirofijo. (Santafé de Bogotá: Planeta, 1989.) P. 323.