Peace In Colombia

José Zalaquett

José Zalaquett

Head of the Project at MOOC Chile
Lawyer, Universidad de Chile. Doctor Honoris Causa, by the Universities of Notre Dame and City University of New York.
José Zalaquett

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After 52 years of armed conflict between the government of Colombia and the FARC (the Spanish language acronym for Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) and following protracted negotiations, the Colombian government and the insurgents have reached a detailed agreement to reach a peaceful solution to the longest lasting armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. The conversations were held in Cuba, which, together with Norway, guaranteed the process. Chile and Venezuela, two symbolically important regional countries, accompanied it.

The final agreement is 293 pages long. It covers many topics: the incorporation of the FARC into the Colombian political process, reparations for the victims of the conflict, which amount to millions, agrarian reform and some critical questions of transitional justice. The document focuses mostly on measures which should be taken after the end of the conflict. In this regard, it is in tune with the contemporary tendencies to give attention to what has been termed Ius Post Bellum, an addition to the classic Ius ad Bellum, or theories of the just war, and Ius in Bello, or the set of norms and principles that should govern the conduct of the hostilities.

With regard to reparations, when the victims are so very many there is a confusion between reparations and public policies of redistribution. Otherwise there is a risk of falling into a kind of circular scheme whereby the money of the taxpayers returns to them in the form of individual compensations.

Concerning criminal justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity, among other punishable conducts, history shows that the problems are very serious. As the transitional justice processes of El Salvador, Guatemala and South Africa, among others, show, perpetrators on both sides of an armed conflict are extremely reluctant to lay down their arms in order to walk into a prison. After all, they are the dominant forces in the respective society. Therefore, peace is often bought at the price of impunity. In fact, the peace agreement just signed between the Colombian government and the FARC contemplates sharply reduced or suspend sentences for those admitting to their wrongdoings.

The Colombian government, led by Pres. Santos, has announced that it will submit the peace agreement to a democratic ratification via a referendum to be held on October 2nd of 2016. Nobody really knows what would happen if the referendum vote went against the agreements. Former Pres. Uribe has campaigned vigorously against the approval. However, popular sentiment in favor of the peace agreement seems to be growing.

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