The Wednesday deadline set by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to hammer out a peace deal came and went with no agreements, as issues of security and transition persist. Yet, after US Secretary of State John Kerry held unprecedented meetings in Havana with the FARC last week, activists remain hopeful that peace can still be attained before Colombia plunges into another bout of civil war.
Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down Thursday with James Jordan, the national coordinator of the Alliance for Global Justice, to talk about the peace process between the FARC and the Colombian government, the passing of the deadline, and what we can expect next.
Was the passing of the deadline on Wednesday significant?
“I don’t think it is because nobody really believed that deadline was going to be reached,” stated Jordan, “that was really just because of details.”
The more important issue is that, while the FARC and the Colombian government negotiate a deal, the security and human rights situation for individuals associated with the revolutionary organization continues to deteriorate.
“What is very worrisome has been the rise in attacks and assaults against members of the Colombian left and human rights defenders, and that is indeed putting the whole process in jeopardy,” said Jordan.
How important was Secretary Kerry’s meeting with the FARC in Havana?
“The leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Rodrigo London, called the meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry ‘historic, unprecedented, and unimaginable,’” said Jordan. “I think for the FARC there is a recognition that a peace in Colombia will not work unless the United States is on board and stops supporting war and oppression, at least overtly, as they have to this point.”
Although Kerry’s meeting provides a positive signal of moving forward, US actions regarding Colombia have not matched its more controlled rhetoric.
“There is a lot of concern with the new ‘Peace Colombia’ plan that Obama has proposed,” explained Jordan. “It has actually led to an increase in military aid to the Colombian government by 54% over last year.”
At this point, Jordan believes that the FARC must not relax their guard simply on the basis of hopeful statements from Washington and Bogotá. “I think the FARC would be foolish to lay down their arms if there are no guarantees of security, especially as we’ve seen a rise in attacks against human rights defenders, environmentalists, and while displacement has gone up.”
Nonetheless, Jordan believes that Secretary Kerry’s willingness to meet with the FARC in Havana, only weeks after his meeting with President Santos of Colombia at the White House, represents a signal not only of Washington’s willingness to explore a peaceful resolution, but also of the Colombian government.
“I think the US is being encouraged to engage the peace process by Colombia itself,” opined Jordan.
What will peace look like in Colombia?
The rising tide of attacks against FARC-aligned groups and individuals raises the question, “What is the nature of the peace that the oligarchies in both the US and Colombia want”? Jordan believes that the answer is simple: “they want to end the armed conflict but they do not want to lose ground in the giveaway of Colombia’s resources to multinational corporations.”
The Colombian left, however, has a very different vision on how the transition to peace will look. “They are banking on the fact that they have support throughout the country and that they can put together a coalition that could have an impact on Colombian politics and eventually win and take back power so long as they have anywhere near a level playing field,” said Jordan.
One aspect that could prevent the FARC from transitioning from a revolutionary force into a ruling political party is the misuse of police and judicial authority by the current government. Right now there are claims that the FARC is a major narco-trafficking organization. But, as Jordan explains, “nobody who is credible believes this line.”
Instead, Jordan argues that “any money that they make is on taxing narco-traffickers who come to an area to buy crops from peasants who can’t afford to come to market.”
Jordan goes on to say that, “the Uribe government opposes this direct trade by farmers because they are not a part of it, they cannot make money off of it.”