The president of United States, Donald Trump, has ensured that Colombia breaks into its reelection campaign in the midst of the intense bid that he maintains with Democrat Joe Biden to secure the Latino vote in Florida, the most important among the so-called pendular states. Among his recent messages of support for the former president Alvaro Uribe, the political mentor of Ivan Duque, the Republican has even recycled allusions to “Castro-Chavism”, the term coined by the Colombian right, gathered around the Government party to attack the peace agreement that Juan Manuel Santos sealed with the defunct FARC guerrilla.
Trump has lined up batteries against that hard-negotiated pact, which allowed for the disarmament of nearly 13,000 rebels. The former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia became a political party that has ten seats in Congress. “The previous Administration negotiated the terrible Obama-Biden-Santos treaty with the Colombian drug cartels, surrendered to the narco-terrorists and caused the production of illicit drugs to increase,” Trump went on to affirm last month at an event in Miami, a rhetoric that recalled the most radical banners of Uribismo, the political current that supports the former president.
Colombian society seeks to turn the page on violence. Duque, elected two years ago with the support of the sectors that opposed the Havana talks, is responsible for implementing an agreement that has had the strong support of the bulk of the international community. Caught since it was signed four years ago in the crossfire of Colombian political polarization, the peace accord now sees its fragile implementation threatened amid the polarization of the US campaign.
The abundant criticism of Duque’s vision of the agreements, which he has promised not to “tear apart”, as claimed by the most instransigent sectors of his party, acquired a new nuance this week. “The agreement is not being implemented satisfactorily,” said Bernard Aronson, who was the special delegate from the United States to accompany the talks in Havana during the administration of Barack Obama, an undeniable endorsement of the negotiation. “The support that Obama gave to the peace agreement was absolute. 450 million dollars were committed for the so-called Plan Paz Colombia and when the new Administration came, Donald Trump tried to erase everything that had been done. The only issue that Trump seems to be interested in with respect to Colombia is how much coca production there is, “the US diplomat added in a interview with the newspaper The viewer.
The answer did not take long. In an unusual diplomatic outing, the Colombian ambassador in Washington, Francisco Santos, Uribe’s former vice president, responded to Aronson’s criticism. “Their proposals dramatically ignore the reality of our conviction to advance in the fulfillment of the commitments agreed through the policy of Peace with Legality. The advances speak for themselves ”, assured the ambassador. Several voices, however, question the political will of the Duque Executive to implement the pact, and its ambiguity has taken its toll.
Colombia must advance to a new phase with a greater territorial focus, especially where the presence of the State has been precarious, stressed last June the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. The fourth report of the Institute, in charge of following up on the agreement, covers the period between December 2018 and November 2019, the third year that has elapsed since the signing at the Teatro Colón in Bogotá. In that period, overall implementation progress was just 6%, a lower figure than in previous years.
The eventual reelection of Trump would cause the peace agreement to enter into crisis, warns the internationalist Laura Gil, very involved in Let’s defend peace, a citizen platform to support the pact. “Until now, they have tried to contain the ability of the Government to tear the peace apart. If Trump wins, the empowerment to really tear the peace is greatly increased. What there is is a waiting time for everyone to see what will happen in these elections, “he says.
Aronson’s criticisms are the same as many defenders of the peace accord in Colombia. The Government is bothered by being contradicted by figures who have diplomatic weight and credibility that make their arguments fall under their own weight, ”says Sergio Guzmán, director of the consultancy Colombia Risk Analysis. “The international community has an important role in making the Colombian government comply with the commitments it signed as a State,” the analyst values. However, “under the Trump administration this has not mattered, because in reality what matters to Colombia is not peace but drug trafficking and its position vis-à-vis Venezuela,” he adds. Under a Democratic administration, also headed by the former Obama vice president, it would be another story.
Duque himself has acknowledged that the relationship with Washington is “drugged” given the high levels of drug crops that his government inherited. Colombia had 154,000 hectares of illicit crops at the end of 2019, according to the official measurement. The Colombian Executive proposes return to controversial glyphosate aerial sprays, a potentially carcinogenic herbicide whose use was suspended in 2015, but the Trump White House insistently promotes it over the voluntary substitution programs agreed with the farmers that contemplate the agreements.
The battle for transitional justice
The Democratic Center, the government party founded by Uribe, the most staunch critic of the agreements, attacks with particular vehemence the transitional justice system in charge of trying the most serious crimes that occurred in the context of the armed conflict. Duque proposed in 2019 to modify the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), considered the backbone of the pact, with a series of objections that suffered a thunderous defeat in Congress. However, Uribe insisted on Monday, in his first statement after the justice will order his freedom after more than two months of house arrest for a case of witness tampering, to repeal the JEP and reform the agreements.
That vision contrasts with that of the UN verification mission in the country. “The transitional justice process is gaining momentum,” Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the head of the mission, declared Wednesday in his quarterly report to the Security Council. “In recent weeks, several of the main leaders of the FARC party have admitted their responsibility for the role they played in different crimes committed during the conflict, clearly demonstrating that the peace process is beginning to fulfill its promise to elucidate the horrors of the past, which is an essential element to heal Colombian society, ”he said.
The Duque Executive is handling a double discourse, as exemplified by indicating to the UN that it is committed to the JEP fulfilling its purpose while the government party is determined that this does not happen, says Guzmán. “There is a mixed diplomacy on the issue that under Trump is tolerable for the United States, but in a different scenario I do not think that Colombia’s position is so appealing,” he says. “At the international level, this double discourse of not doing in Colombia, and saying that it is done abroad, is already exhausted”, agrees Laura Gil.
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