Five weeks after assuming power, the government of the progressive Gustavo Petro revealed progress in reaching the “complete peace”a comprehensive policy that seeks to put an end to the Colombian tragedy of decades.
Total peace is not simply the negotiated disarmament of the 18,000 men that the thinktank Indepaz calculates the 22 armed groups that have stated that they want to join this policy. To compare: 17,000 was the number of combatants that the FARC was supposed to have before agreeing to peace in 2016. Finally, 13,000 demobilized.
Total peace is creating an environment to end war at once. Find solutions to the social conflict generated by inequality, exclusion and lack of opportunities and aim to build social, environmental and economic justice.
“Total peace is a task for all citizens,” Petro warned in his first speech as president, on September 14, and invited to participate in 50 regional dialogues between now and the end of November, including an online one with the diaspora. Each dialogue will last two and a half days; its conclusions will be binding and the Government says it will include them in its draft National Development Planwhich must be presented to Congress by February 7 as the deadline.
For now, the Executive has enough votes to move it forward. Adding the express support of sectors as diverse as the Comunes party, of the former FARC, and the Conservative party, they have 75 of the 108 votes in the Senate and 140 of 187 in the House of Representatives.
Participation in regional dialogues may be virtual through open lines, and in public settings with thematic tables on land use planning and total peace;
human security and social justice; human right to food; energy transformation and environmental justice, and social-regional convergence. Calls to attend will be made through the media and social networks.
There will be between six and seven simultaneous meetings per week. The first began this same Friday the 16th in Turbaco, a municipality near Cartagena de Indias that at the height of the war received a huge mass of displaced peopleThey were fleeing for their lives. The mayor of Turbaco is Guillermo Torres, a 68-year-old former FARC peace signer and singer-songwriter who is determined to bring running water to all the homes in Turbaco.
The regional dialogues have a participatory methodology designed by the Department of National Planning. There will be no exclusions, whoever wants can go to express all their unsatisfied needs, and in addition, a priority will be defined, ideally collectively, in order to put their finger on the essential changes to cement total peace: it can be a road, education, the Internet, the defense of water, the forest… Each meeting will be sponsored by a minister or minister and President Petro will participate in some. Local authorities and representatives of all institutions will be present.
The same night as Petro’s speech, in the space of the veteran journalist Yamid Amat, the experienced human rights defender Danilo Rueda summed up what had been achieved in a month in his position as High Commissioner for Peace and with the help of Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva, a respected fighter for peace for forty years.
In this regard, it was already known that the negotiations with the ELN (National Liberation Army) were thawed, after the formal commitment of the Colombian Foreign Ministry that the State will now comply with the protocols agreed upon before international guarantors and that the far-right president Iván Duque ignored. The ELN negotiators had been in Cuba for four years, although Public has learned that in January Petro met in Spain with Antonio García, one of the Eleno leaders.
The last thing he said High CommissionerDanilo Rueda, is that he personally has met on Colombian soil with the heads of the remnant General Staff of the FARCa sector that withdrew from the negotiations in Havana arguing that if the guerrillas handed over their weapons, the State would not comply with the peace agreement.
There has also been rapprochements with another remaining sector, Segunda Marquetalia, made up of the former chief negotiator of the FARC in Havana Iván Márquez and other former commanders who once again took refuge in arms in the face of the threat of ending up extradited to the US through illegal entrapments (setups) that have sought to pass several former guerrilla leaders off as drug traffickers. Rueda confirmed that Iván Márquez, who was rumored to have been killed in a sniper raid in June, is one of those who has sent the exploratory peace messages. He is alive, although recovering from the attack. He is supposed to remain in Venezuela.
While there have been successive releases of hostages by the ELN since Petro’s electoral triumph in June, in the case of these two branches of the former FARC there have been “de-escalation measures,” according to Rueda, which have benefited certain populations. He said something key: these guerrillas “identify that the affected population is tired of the war,” and “we can be ad portasof a multilateral ceasefire. But in total peace the key is not to leave loose ends.
For this reason, there have also been rapprochements with the self-proclaimed Gaitanista self-defense groups of Colombia (AGC)known as Clan del Golfo, an extremely violent paramilitary and drug trafficker group whose leader, Otoniel, was extradited by Duque to the United States as quickly as he could after his capture in October 2021, because the man was talking nonstop and thus splashing many powerful, both in ties and in uniform.
The AGC have manifested since August 7 (when Gustavo Petro took office) their willingness to avail themselves of total peace. They had been murdering policemen who were not their accomplices almost daily, and the fact is that this dramatic massacre ceased with the Petro government. The High Commissioner himself has also met with elements of this armed group: he calls it “socio-legal dialogue” because the Clan del Golfo “has social roots”, as Rueda warns, and has shown itself capable of substituting the absent State in response to certain demands of the population. The AGC have been offered legal guarantees and respect for their lives, as well as the rights of the population over which they have influence. “It’s about moving towards the rule of law,” in the words of Rueda.
Although in some territories the decrease in confrontation is already palpable, there are still combat zones. Rueda’s office has traveled to the depths of those territories looking for the violence to decrease.
The approaches that have taken place in five weeks of government have so far been limited to determining whether these three armed groups have a real will to be part of total peace. The The first appeal of the Executive is that there be gestures to de-escalate the confrontation and respect the civilian population: “Do not kill, do not disappear, do not displace, do not confine,” said Rueda, referring to the latter term to the prohibition of fleeing that is imposed on a community.
So that these efforts do not burst, it is important not to mix, he warned in conversation with Public the teacher Alex Vargasfrom the Security and Defense Research Group of the National University, who claimed that a public policy document is needed to avoid misunderstandings.
The regional dialogues that began in Turbaco have nothing to do with the regional dialogues that the THE N in any negotiation: “For the elenos there will be a specific table and they will define how the participation of society will be,” he pointed out, “they refuse to be treated like the others.” Additionally, “there are quite a few uncertainties that will become evident at the time that High Commissioner Rueda formalizes some talks” with groups such as the one that claims to be the continuity of the FARC General Staff.
On the other hand: how is total peace combined with the presence in Colombia of the bloodthirsty sinaloa cartel and other Eastern European cartels? On the Colombian Pacific coast there are armed groups that have close relations with these cartels: it is a different scenario in which “it is not so clear what the policy that the Petro government will finally adopt on drug trafficking and coca crops will be. The big problem is that we don’t have policy documents,” nor about total peace, reiterated the experienced security analyst.
“We have statements, legal initiatives; we know that voluntary substitution will be prioritized before forced substitution; that glyphosate will not be used” to destroy crops destined for drug trafficking and that as a central policy the course on drugs will be recovered that established the peace agreement with the FARC, but “those are sketches,” he warns.