Colombia: Everything You Need to Know About the FARC Peace Treaty

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is an extremist group of self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist guerrilla soldiers. They’re known as terrorists not only by their own country, Colombia, but also by most civilized countries around the world. The FARC has been a part of the Colombian armed conflict ever its started back in 1964.

FARC Origins

The FARC was founded after the Colombian army attacked the “Republic of Marquetalia” in 1964 in an attempt to reassert the authority of the so-called “National Front”. Said attack was codenamed “Operation Sovereignty” by the Colombian government.

FARC: Who are they and what do they stand for?

According to their official website:

“Our founders were 48 Campesinos (farmers) from the Marquetalia region, an agricultural colony founded by them ten years earlier. Our main leaders were Manuel Marulanda Vélez and Jacobo Arenas, who led our struggle until they died, by natural causes, many years later.”

“We are part of the global tide that stands against imperialism and neo-liberalism, against war, against environmental destruction, against patriarchy and all forms of discrimination between human beings. We believe in the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, we believe that every nation has a right to sovereignty, to freely and democratically choose their destiny without foreign interference. We dream of a better world without abysmal economic and social differences, living in peace and harmony. A world where capitalist exploitation is finally put to an end.”

At first, the FARC was a pretty respectable group because they only acted on self-defense and they only attacked other guerrilla groups. But a few years later, during the 80’s, they started other shameful activities like drug-dealing, illegal mining, public and private property destruction (including police stations, bridges and so on), murder and kidnapping of innocent civilians and politicians and many other things, thus earning their current reputation as terrorists.

According to the UN, the FARC and ELN (National Liberation Army) is responsible for 12% of the civilian murders of the armed conflict in Colombia.

How does the peace treaty between the FARC and the Colombian government work?

On June 23rd of 2016, after almost four years of negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC (which took place on La Havana, Cuba), an indefinite ceasefire was officially declared by both sides of the conflict. The FARC also announced that they were willing to give up all of their weapons and to also put an end to their group and all of its operations, as long as the Colombian government accepted the reinsertion of every single one of their members into society (with the exception of a few members that decided to keep operating but under a different name).

The eyes of the world were on both the FARC and the Colombian government, and because of that, both sides were ready to make this deal happen. A deal that would entirely change the future of Colombia and all of its citizens.

If only it were that simple… The government decided that the treaty needed the approval of the citizens, and thus a new election day was born. The government rushed the date as much as it could, but the results only proved to be an even bigger obstacle for this treaty.

On October 2nd of 2016, the final results were published and the “NO” won by 50,21% of the votes. This means that it was a very close election, with a different margin of only 0,49%.

Why did the Colombian citizens reject peace?

Sadly, the world is not that simple and it gets even more complicated when it comes to war. Even though the Colombian citizens are afraid and tired of the immense danger that the FARC poses against them, most of them feel like they have suffered too much by the hands of these terrorists to just let them get away with it with no punishment whatsoever, and what’s even worse, to let them live amongst the innocent citizens they used to kill and kidnap a few months ago.

One may think that they’re getting carried away by anger and vengeance, but could you live next door to the guy that killed your cousin or your mother just a few months or years ago? Could you just say “Good morning” to him as if it never even happened?

The Colombian people who voted “NO” actually have a reason explaining their decision: “We didn’t say no to peace, we said no to impunity.”

Another factor that influenced the victory of the “NO” and the close results of the election, was the fact that not many people actually voted. According to the official stats, around 62% of legal voters abstained from choosing a side during these elections.

This means that more than half of the registered citizens were too indecisive to cast a vote or just didn’t care for it. Whatever their reason was, they’re still being blamed and criticized by voters from both sides of the results.

What happens now?

According to the FARC, the results of the election did not put an end to the peace treaty or all of the negotiations that have been made so far. If anything, they just made things a little bit harder for them.

Now that the citizens decided against this treaty, the government will resume their negotiations with the FARC and will proceed to vote the new terms with the Colombian congress instead of asking the citizens again.

Obviously, this has caused an outrage between the citizens and the main cities of the country have had their fair share of protests since then.

As of right now, there aren’t many details about what exactly they’re going to change about the treaty to make it happen, but a few FARC leaders have said through social media that they’re not too keen on changing the original terms. In fact, some of them (like Carlos Antonio Lozada), said that if the president wasn’t Santos but instead his predecessor, Uribe, he would have “signed already” without having to ask for the approval of the citizens.

About Carlos Millan

Carlos is a Venezuelan student who every day faces the reality of a country in a crisis which the government tries to hide. Freedom of speech, growing as a person and goals that fulfill him beyond his own desires are the things that motivate him to work hard.

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