The Peace process continues in Colombia

A new round of negotiations got under way in La Habana last October 23 between the FARC and the Colombian Government. The Peace talks began in Oslo in November last year and continued in La Habana one month later. The objective is to put an end to an armed conflict that began over 50 years ago and which includes drug trafficking, kidnappings and terrorism.

The Peace talks are focused on a six point agenda: reforming rural land, political participation of the FARC, disarmament of the guerrillas, drug trafficking, rights for victims of the conflicts and implementing a peace treaty. In May, an agreement was reached concerning the first point, of which the only information available is that it focuses on the small producer and the setting up of a Land Fund for Peace in charge of redistribution of lands amongst landless rural inhabitants, or those who do not have sufficient land to use productively.

This new round of talks has one clear objective: to reach an agreement on the second point concerning political participation, for which the FARC have presented a list containing 99 proposals. Nevertheless, talks have been at an impasse since May and may be affected by the upcoming legislative and presidential elections in 2014. In this regard, President Santos has given his assurance that the peace talks will take priority over his re-election and that the FARC are willing to accept a pause in the negotiations while the elections take place.

The previous attempt at negotiating a peace process took place between 1999 and 2002. The process was characterised by implementing prior conditions of a ceasefire which held and the designation of a demilitarized zone by the FARC. The process came to an abrupt end when the FARC were accused of importing weapons into the demilitarized zone and rebel forces hijacked a plane and kidnapped Congressman Jorge Gechem and the presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

However, there has been no such similar ceasefire decreed for the current peace talks and as a result, the army continues its operations targeting the guerrilla. The FARC has made a commitment to refrain from acts of kidnapping but refuses to renounce its other activities. The goodwill in the process is evidenced by the fact that negotiations continue, despite the army killing the FARC leader who had initiated this process.