Santos Opts for Approval of Colombia Peace Deal by Congress: No 2nd Referendum
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc ): Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos opts for having the newly-signed revised peace accord between the State and the FARC-EP approved by Congress rather than opting for a second referendum.
President Juan Manuel Santos, on Wednesday, announced that he opts for having the newly-signed revised peace accord between the State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) approved by Congress instead of opting for a second referendum. Santos admitted that he had “learned his lessons” from the referendum on October 2, that resulted in a marginal, in the opinion of many analysts questionable “No” to the initial peace accord. Speaking at the Leadership for the Americas gala of the “Inter-American Dialogue” think tank, he said: “I never imagined we would lose.”
A revised peace accord was signed on November 12 and its full text was published on November 14. Santos said that he is determined to maintain peace in the country and to have the new, revised peace accord approved by Congress as soon as possible. Santos also said he is determined to pass the presidency on to his successor so the next president inherits a country in peace. Santos’ term expires in a year and a half.
The need to finalize the peace accord became evident when two “alleged” FARC guerrilla were killed by military personnel because they allegedly were too far from one of the camps where some of FARC-EP troops already had gathered in anticipation that the referendum on October 2 would result in a “Yes” for peace. The alleged FARC guerrilla were allegedly involved in “suspicious activities suggesting that something criminal was going on”.
The new peace accord is a revised version of the peace accord that was signed on September 26 and narrowly rejected in a referendum on October 2, 2016. The main opposition to the old accord was the Democratic Center Party, centered around ex-president Alvaro Uribe.
The revised accord excludes the integration of foreign judges in the transitional justice tribunal that may try hundreds, maybe thousands of FARC guerrilla, as well as at least 24,400 State officials, plus more than 12,500 private actors. Among the accused are major corporations, including Coca-Cola, and not to forget, members of Alvaro Uribe’s family, most prominently his brother Santiago Uribe.
Instead, the tribunal will be established by Colombian judges who are accompanied by foreign “amici curiae,” friends of the court, who will function as advisors and as assistant judges without sentencing right. Additionally, the court will have limited tools to prosecute third parties that financed illegal armed groups like the FARC and, more importantly, paramilitary group AUC. The latter will be particularly important for circles around Alvaro Uribe and the Uribe family and foreign allies who were deeply embroiled in funding the AUC. Santiago Uribe, the brother of Alvaro Uribe, stands among others accused of links to the AUC successor organization Los Urabenos.
The revised accord stipulates a two-year time limit on victims to file charges over state crimes and NGOs that represent victims will not be allowed to file charges. Likewise, businessmen accused of financing or benefiting from the actions one of the designated terrorist groups that were actively in the conflict will be shielded from having to appear before civilian courts and be subject to the transitional justice system only.
War criminals of either side of the conflict will still have the possibility to stay out of prison under the condition they voluntarily and fully cooperate with justice and guarantee “non-repetition”. The size of the detention camps for convicted guerrilla will not be bigger than the so-called Transitory Normalization Zones” that are currently in use for the demobilization and disarmament of some of the FARC-EP guerrilla who already went to the zones before the surprise rejection of the initial peace accord on October 2.
The revised peace accord stipulates that the FARC-EP, after its transformation into a non-militant political organization, will keep the ten guaranteed congressional seats in the two terms between 2018 and 2026 as agreed in the initial accord and its leaders will be allowed to run for office in spite of possible war crime sentences. However, the accord also stipulates that all FARC members will be barred from running for additional seats in the House of Representatives created for representatives of the country’s most war-torn regions.
The initially proposed budget for the FARC’s entry into the formal political process has been cut by thirty percent. Moreover, ex-guerrillas in politics will not be eligible for participation in the congressional public security commission and will be barred from exercising political control over private security companies.
The “New Deal” obligates those who appear before the transitional justice court to fully disclose their involvement in the drug trade and their business partners. The new agreement will not prohibit the extremely controversial arterial spraying of coca crops with herbicides to curb coca cultivation. The old agreement’s stipulations on crop substitution remain largely intact. However, no informally owned land will be formalized until the government certifies the land is free of coca.
The “New Deal” also limits the possibilities to expropriate private land property for the creation of a land fund for landless and displaced farmers. The initial accord stipulated that large land owners could lose property to the fund if their lands were underused or used only for speculation.
Meanwhile, the start of official peace talks between the government and the ELN have fallen behind schedule again. In March 2016 the government and the ELN agreed to launch official peace talks in May after signing a comprehensive accord.
However, the Santos administration then added the demand that the ELN release all of its “hostages” before peace talks could be launched. The ELN has since then, on November 6, countered the government’s “additional demands” that were not part of the accord signed in March, by demanding that the government release ELN prisoners before the ELN would release its last hostage, Odin Sanchez.
In August 2016 the ELN released a video with Odin Sanchez. The release of the video followed repeated demands from the side of the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that the ELN releases all hostages before it would be possible to launch official peace talks. In the video Odin Sanchez urged President Juan Manuel Santos to resume talks with the ELN. Odin commented on his captivity, saying that he was living in “fourth world like conditions” which are inhumane and unbearable. However, Odin Sanchez also lashed out at the government, saying:
“The government laid a trap for the people when it said it was ready to initiate conversations and then signaled that other conditions were required, like the liberation of those who are kidnapped, something that wasn’t fully agreed to”. The family of Odin Sanchez expressed relief over the video and urged President Santos to resume talks with the ELN as soon as possible.
On Sunday the ELN was accused of a hit-and-run attack on policemen on a road near Yopal, the capital of the Casanare province. According to authorities, the two policemen were shot dead by a man and a woman passing by on a motorcycle. The ELN has not formally confirmed the attack and a source close to the ELN described it as a “probable false flag” aimed at discrediting the ELN.
Also on Sunday the Trans-Andean oil pipeline was bombed in the southwestern Nariño province, where oil has now spilled into the Guiza river. Military sources attributed the attack to the ELN. Juan Camilo Restrepo, the head of the government’s negotiating team with the ELN, said the bombing that took place a 100 meters from a school was “clumsy”. The previously named source with links to the ELN stated that the ELN has previously attacked oil pipelines. She noted that it “possibly could have been a sign of frustration” but that it is as probable that the attack was carried out by others, whose intention it is to discredit the ELN and to sideline it from the peace process.
CH/L & A/N – 17.11.2016