Peace At Last — Historic Colombia Ceasefire Ends Five Decades Of War

The BBC reports that the Colombian government and the Farc rebels have signed a historic ceasefire and rebel disarmament deal. It is hoped that the agreement will end more than five decades of conflict.

The Farc insurgency is the longest-running in the Western Hemisphere. An estimated 220,000 people have died as a result of the conflict and close to 7 million have been displaced.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos shook hands with Timoleon Jimenez, a Commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, at a signing ceremony held in Havana, Cuba.

FARC commander Rodrigo Londono spoke with emotion about the peace deal — 9 News reports that the rebel leader, who is known as Timochenko, choked up as he expressed his hope that this would be the final day of the war.

“May this be the last day of the war. We are close to a final peace accord.”

farc guerrillas
A guerrilla from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guards a road March 7, 2002 in the mountains near Bogota, Sumapaz, Colombia.

The Farc insurgency arose in the 1960s out of frustration with deep socio-economic inequalities in the Americas. The BBC reports that Farc has changed since then, and that the “anchorless” rebels are simply “going through the motions” now that many of the original intellectual architects of the movement have been killed or moved on, and now that the polarized Cold War world is a thing of the past.

Gone is the bipolar vision of the Cold War, and gone too are most of the group’s original intellectual architects, many killed in combat… Today, somewhat anchorless, the rebels continue to go through motions of an armed insurgency

The report reflects that “the Farc in the 21st Century is a strange beast.” The Marxist guerrillas of Farc and the Colombian government have been in talks since 2012. The Farc rebels claim that they have fought a just war, battling against what they believe is unequal land ownership in Colombia.

A full peace deal is expected within weeks. The signed ceasefire agreement contains the following terms and provisions:

“The rebels will lay down arms within 180 days of a final peace deal
Temporary transition zones and camps will be created for the estimated 7,000 rebels
No civilians will be allowed to enter Farc camps, to guarantee rebel security
UN monitors will receive all the group’s weapons”

Farc even committed to putting the final accord to the Colombian people in a plebiscite. Preliminary polls suggest that the people of Colombia will probably ratify the agreement by a significant margin — around two to one.

The Washington Post claims that the thorniest of the issues still need to be ironed out.

“Some of the details still to be negotiated are tricky. And there’s a referendum to come.”

There is still a danger violence could erupt again. Opponents of peace, angered by past agreements, have resorted to political killings in an attempt to disrupt the peace process.

“[T]he thorniest [of the accord issues] is how the FARC will participate in the political process. This subject is especially fraught, because political killings by criminal groups that oppose peace have been increasing. In the past, the government and the FARC have miscalculated; their agreements resulted in more violence rather than less.”

The Economist reported more joyously, writing that peace has arrived “at last,” but warning that the government will need to take careful steps to implement projects to employ the guerrilla rank and file in areas of Farc influence. There are also worries that a smaller guerrilla group, the ELN, could recruit Farc renegades who oppose the peace process. Finally, there are fears that criminal gangs are gaining in strength in the country — the leaders of these gangs apparently emerged from right-wing paramilitary groups which demobilized last decade. It is possible that such gangs could now absorb members of the demobilized Farc group.

“Just as important will be the government’s ability to flood the areas of FARC influence with quick-starting development projects to employ the guerrilla rank and file, and to impose security, justice and effective administration. There are two further complications. A smaller guerrilla group, the ELN, shows no serious interest in peace; it may recruit FARC renegades and will have to be fought.”

farc colombia
A boy sits near an AK-47 assault rifle at a FARC check point February 26, 2001 in Cristales, Colombia.

(Photos by Carlos Villalon/Getty Images)

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