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Obstacles to the peace process in Colombia

Farc has accused the Duque government of intentionally impeding the peace agreement, including the re-integration to civil society of thousands of former guerillas, writes NICK MacWILLIAM

THE Farc political party and other opposition congress members have criticised the Colombian government over a lack of political will to implement the peace process after Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez said that the agreement had “semi-failed.” 

It comes as the Farc announced that 185 former guerillas in the re-incorporation process have been murdered since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016.

At a forum in Bogota on January 28, Gutierrez blamed the Farc for failing to comply with the peace agreement even though the United Nations and other international observers have repeatedly verified the Farc’s fulfilment of its obligations, despite the slow implementation of the agreement. 

Minister Gutierrez is a career politician who was elected mayor of the town of Agua de Dios in 1988, aged just 25. 

She entered the Senate in 2006 and later served as its president. In 2008, Gutierrez was investigated over paramilitary links while she was president of the Congress. 

The case was archived in 2014. She was appointed interior minister in August 2018 following the election of current president Ivan Duque.  

Following Gutierrez’s comments, Senator Ivan Cepeda of the Democratic Pole party tweeted that “a contribution to peace and to the implementation of the agreement would be the replacement of Nancy Patricia Gutierrez with a competent official who has a true disposition to seek an end to violence and reconciliation from the Interior Ministry.” 

The Duque government has faced repeated criticism over its attitude to the peace process after he campaigned on a platform of opposition to the 2016 accord. 

Duque’s party, the conservative Democratic Centre, also orchestrated the successful No vote campaign against the agreement in a 2016 referendum. 

In March 2019, fears were raised over the agreement’s legal standing when Duque attempted to apply unilateral changes to its truth-and-justice tribunal, which was created to investigate and punish major human-rights violations committed during the armed conflict. Duque’s move was rejected in Colombia’s Constitutional Court. 

Farc senator Carlos Lozada accused the Duque government of taking office with the intention of impeding the agreement, including the re-integration to civil society of thousands of former guerillas. 

In a separate statement, the Farc said failure lay on the part of the government, particularly in protecting social activists and former guerillas and dismantling armed groups which remain active in many regions and are believed responsible for hundreds of killings. 

On Sunday January 26, Cesar Dario Herrera Gomez became the latest Farc member to be killed. He was shot dead shortly after leaving a Farc re-incorporation zone in Ituango, northern Colombia, the 12th murder victim based at the zone and already the fifth Farc former guerrilla to be murdered in Colombia this year. 

In a statement, Farc members at the Ituango reincorporation zone said: “The government cannot keep covering up this plan of extermination against peace by justifying that this is a semi-failed agreement when, every three days, we have attended the burial of one of our comrades.” 

Farc members in Ituango also said that the army had advised bodyguards assigned to former guerillas to avoid mobilising or to do so at their own risk. 

The Farc has asked the United Nations’ verification mission to visit the zone to assess the insecurity there. 

On January 30, the government said another a plan had been discovered to assassinate senior Farc official Pastor Alape Lascarro in Ituango. 

Alape represents the Farc on the National Re-incorporation Council that oversees the transition of former guerillas to civilian life. 

Senator Lozada said that ending the violence against former guerillas and social activists depended on dismantling armed groups, fully implementing the peace agreement and reaching a negotiated settlement with the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s last remaining guerilla insurgency. 

The government has refused to reopen peace negotiations with the ELN that were initiated by Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos. 

The Special Unit of Investigation based at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which was created to investigate crimes against former guerillas, has registered 169 murders of Farc members from 2016 to 2019, as well as 24 assassination attempts and 12 cases of forced disappearance. 

The unit has made investigative advances in 78 cases while 91 are unresolved. Arising from those investigations there have been 23 convictions, with 16 trials currently under way. 

The majority of murders of social activists, with more than 600 people killed since the agreement was signed, have remained in impunity.  

On January 8, in a statement on the peace process, the head of the UN Mission in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, said that major causes of violence in Colombia, such as state abandonment, poverty and illegal economies, were addressed in the peace agreement and its full implementation was therefore the most effective means of protecting communities and tackling the human-rights crisis. 

Ruiz Massieu also called on the government urgently to implement security guarantees to dismantle paramilitary and armed groups and their networks. 

Responding to Ruiz Massieu’s statement, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, said that increased security was vital for Farc members, and she encouraged the Colombian government to extend protective measures to re-incorporation zones and new settlements established by former guerillas. 

She said greater efforts were needed to make sure that former guerillas in the re-incorporation process were legally accredited and able to access productive projects, and that full implementation was necessary for an “inclusive, stable and lasting peace in Colombia.” 

Nick MacWilliam is trade-union and programmes officer at Justice for Colombia, which works with the British and Irish trade union movements and parliaments in support of human rights and peace in Colombia.

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