Colombia trapped in an old nightmare

On Thursday the 29th of August, Colombia awoke in the midst of an old nightmare. The echoes of a war more than 50 years old that the peace accords of 2016 sought to put an end to, began to resonate across the country once more.

The video declaration of various high-ranking FARC dissidents that had previously disarmed that they would be taking up arms again was a shocking blow in a country where peace is yet to be consolidated.

In the video, Iván Márquez, the leader of the Havana peace negotiations of 2016 and so-called number two of the FARC, appears after going missing in April 2018 after a trip to Caquetá, Colombia.

“We announce to the world today that the second Marquetalia has begun”, declares Márquez alongside other infamous figures such as the Paisa, ex-congressman Jesús Santrich, Henry Castellanos Garzón alias Romaña and Walter Mendoza, referring to Marquetalia, Tolima, the birthplace of the FARC.

“This is the continuation of the guerrilla fight in response to the betrayal of the Colombian state to the Havana peace accords'', says Márquez solemnly, surrounded by armed combatants in uniforms.

However, for the majority of ex-combatants of the FARC who have undertaken an immense effort to integrate themselves into civilian life, this is seen as a huge betrayal, and consequently, they’re raising their voices to defend the peace accords and oppose the declarations of Márquez.

That’s why we present everything you need to know about the recent events in Colombia, and what this seemingly has to do with Venezuela and the government’s inability to comply with the peace accords.

What’s it got to do with Venezuela?

The declaration of Colombian president Iván Duque as a reaction to the video of Márquez and his followers focused on the “dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro” and how it seemingly has been providing shelter and support to the dissident ex-guerrilla fighters.

For Duque, his statements do nothing other than provide more ammunition in what is already a scenario of tension between the current Colombian and Venezuelan governments. Direct involvement of the Venezuelan government in the current scandal is unlikely, but for the Colombian government, that has adopted a foreign policy towards Maduro akin to that of Washington, it’s overly convenient to use them as a scapegoat.

This way he can divert the attention from his failures at complying with the peace accords and stopping the ongoing massacres of social leaders, indigenous people, and ex-combatants in many areas of Colombia.

Criminal actors impose their own rule of law in these parts of the country due to the absence of the state and the lack of legitimacy of the army that were involved in scandals such as the case of the ‘false positives’.

Lukewarm compliance with the peace agreements

Since Duque has been in the Colombian presidency, for around a year now, he has tried to create many barriers that would get in the way of effectively complying with the conditions laid out in the peace agreements.

Duque lives in the shadows of ultraconservative ex-president, Álvaro Uribe, who promoted the ‘no’ vote in the referendum for the peace accords in 2016 and who heightened the great polarisation that had existed in Colombian society, that persists today.

The Havana peace accords sought to put an end to around 52 years of civil, and after years of complex negotiations with the FARC, they achieved disarmament under the supervision of the UN. However, violence continues to devastate Colombia and especially in rural areas where there is little institutionality.

Under the tutelage of now senator Uribe, Duque has waged multiple battles against the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a court created to put those involved in the conflict on trial, and to achieve truth and justice rather than revenge. Duque bought the discourse that the Jurisdiction would only lead to impunity for the guerrilla, and thus tried to derail this important part of the peace accords.

He has also failed on various occasions to continue the work of the previous government of Santos by sitting down to negotiate with the ELN. After the group set off a car bomb at a military training school in Bogotá in January, the government was finally provided with the justification it needed to halt negotiations entirely.

Now, although the real capacity of Márquez and his allies to create a new army is limited, the video nonetheless sends a strong and disturbing message in a country where the peace process has been weakened by the current government’s actions.

Duque, whose ‘minimalist peace agenda’ only focuses on the reincorporation of ex-members of the guerrilla into civil society and some development programs, has proved insufficient to heal the scars left by civil war.

In any case, the news is tragic and a product of having let the situation degrade to become what it is now. The peace accords were supposed to waken Colombia up from a long nightmare, but it would appear that due to the error of convoking a referendum about peace that was used to dim hopes, and by blaming others for the government’s own mistakes, the nightmare continues today.

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