Colombia: How the Powerful Keep Killing Peace

By Manuel Humberto Restrepo Dominguez on October 04, 2021

Colombia Protest, photo: Resumen Latinoamericano

At the end of 2016, the prospect of peace generated a furor in the Colombian people who held the widespread belief that, finally, rights and lives would be respected. At an international peace forum (U. Central, the Defense Ministry, Alianza para la Paz, Bogota) Colombia’s Minister of Defense informed the world that the greatest assets of the peace process had been the bilateral ceasefire agreed on between the state and the insurgency, with immediate results including a decline in acts of war, the emptying of hospital wards that treated thousands of wounded and mutilated people, the reduction of extortion, kidnapping and even car theft to a minimum. He also confirmed the decrease to less than half of the average homicide rate compared to the years of the previous decade.

He concluded by insisting that the state was prepared to provide security to society and to the ex-combatants because building territorial peace depended on it…

Among multiple voices and a diversity of social organizations and movements, academics, intellectuals, officials and invited experts, the country’s Police Director indicated that the police were ready to enter into a pluralist interdisciplinary reflection on the concept of peace and the new role of police as builders and protectors of it with a territorial approach. He discussed their willingness to be conciliators and mediators with and for citizens, respectful of the law. He reported on the prominent role being given to the police symphony orchestra, which had begun a tour of prisons to tell a story of reconciliation, and reported the existence of 1,187 musical bands which he said “now belong to the people, no longer to the king”. He said they were ready to promote the idea that violence would never again decide the history of the country.

Artists, academics and intellectuals called for the study of the conflict in the classroom to raise awareness, learn to narrate history, promote and participate in the collective narrative of the nation and ensure that what is said is translated into what is done. Education was ready to relate to the world with peace-minded pedagogical tools and to move it from a desire to a concerted effort. There was a willingness to take the lessons of the past, apply them to the future and create new subjectivities based on the sense of the inviolability of life as a basis for initiating new narratives capable of recomposing ethics and overcoming the moral degradation that had been reached.

All voices in a chorus of diversity announced their commitment and readiness for peace. The collective perception, mood and efforts were at their best and the 217 pages of the “peace agreement” would be the compass to follow. For everyone – state, government, international community and society – it was clear that the insurgency had not been defeated politically, ideologically or militarily and that the surrender of its weapons, strategies and means of warfare had been confirmed. Now they would become part of political life, (real politics), as peace builders. There were sufficient and necessary guarantees to affirm in advance that the peace signed would quickly produce the transformation of society and the state, as had occurred in the recent conflicts closed with negotiations. In Nepal, the conversion from monarchy to democracy was agreed upon and took place immediately; in Burundi, the insurgency took over 33 high state offices; Ireland established a shared government between Catholics and Protestants; and in Angola, a government of national unity was agreed upon.

The insurgency in Colombia would have only 10 seats in a parliament of 250 and was under special state protection. It did not matter the scarce equivalence, overcoming barbarism and through the route of reconciliation between former enemies was the supreme value, foreseeable, because there was no defeated body to make peace on it, and it was necessary to build it collectively, changing practices and renewing power structures, management, language and attitude. There was fervor and confidence that soon there would be a strong rule of law, taking over territories, improving welfare, recovering political and social stability, a symbol of respect, recognition and guarantee of human rights. The signed agreement was the opportunity that any government would have wanted to have to rebuild the country on life and leave death behind. The signed agreement was an example for the world and a masterpiece of retributive justice whose logic is not that the direct state-insurgency actors and third parties in the war answer to the state but to society and the victims. What is punished is not the crime committed, but the lack of commitment to tell the truth and heal wounds.

Peace was underway. It was going well. It was an unrepeatable opportunity. But what no one could rationally explain happened: The government denied it, prevented it, hindered it, returning the country to barbarism. The influence, recklessness and action of the ruling party cut off the growing fervor and blocked the routes to peace. It returned to the “doctrine of the war on terror” which it made the main tool of party existence and state governance, sent the Damascus Doctrine, the musical bands, the idea of the conciliatory policeman, the sovereign soldier, the responsible civil servant and the rule of law to the trash. “The doctrine is one of terror” and has prevented the causes of the conflict from being talked about, discussed and above all else, dealt with as causes to rid the country of a return to war.

The party in power protects inequality, which is the original cause produced by the elites that concentrate political power, material goods and systems of corruption and dispossession of the nation’s assets. There nests the triggering factor of crime, violence and horror, which, by preventing the fervor of peace, has set back 100 years the rights conquered. They have led the country to the shame of being first in the world in displacement and selective assassination of social leaders, human rights defenders, peace signatories and double the best state publicity Goebbels style.

Nothing indicates today that there is a strong rule of law because the party in power turned its ‘No to the Plebiscite’ (inconceivable in reason and politics and won only be several thousands among millions of votes) into its license to prevent peace and to promote once again the death of a country thousands of times murdered, tortured, dismembered, decapitated, incinerated, silenced and “torn to shreds” by the same elites grouped today in the ruling party. Outside of Colombia they present the country as a haven of “peace with legality”, ignoring the fact that there is no protection of human rights nor effective contributions to prevent and mitigate violent crime and conflict nor legitimate processes for the resolution of claims, no disincentives for crime and violence.

Source: Alainet, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English