The Guardian reports: In their 52-year fight against the Colombian state, Farc rebels used assault rifles, shrapnel-filled gas canisters, homemade landmines and mortar shells.
Those weapons are now set to be silenced forever as part of a historic peace deal with the government, to be signed on Monday. Once the demobilisation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is complete, their arsenal will be melted down into three monuments that will mark the end of Latin America’s longest-running conflict – and decades of armed uprisings in the region.
“This is an agreement with the last of the great guerrilla movements that emerged in the context of the cold war,” said Gonzalo Sánchez, director of the National Centre of Historical Memory in Bogotá. “There might be other episodes, but strategically the armed project, the armed utopia, is closing its cycle with Farc.”
Like many other Marxist and Maoist followers of the “armed struggle”, the Farc were inspired by the audacious exploits of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, who set out to Cuba on the rickety fishing vessel Granma with just 80 men in 1956, and went on to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista three years later.
It was certainly not the first armed rebellion in Latin America, which had witnessed numerous bloody independence campaigns against Spain in the 19th century and a smattering of communist militias in the 1940s. But the Cuban rebels’ success ignited a fresh blaze of revolutionary fervour across the continent that was fuelled by cold war politics, military coups, US backing for rightwing dictators and the murderous suppression of more moderate leftwing activists. [Continue reading…]
Jonathan Glennie writes: Assuming Colombia does vote for peace, there are three priorities.
First, a huge peace dividend must be felt by all sections of society. Those who have suffered under the poverty and inequality that has accompanied the prolonged civil war need to feel this most. Then there will be the “no” voters, who still need convincing that a decisive rejection of violent conflict is the best way forward for Colombia, and who could yet stand in the way of a successful peace.
Second, the already significant focus on improved governance, accountability and democratic institutions must continue. These areas have suffered greatly as people of violence have taken control of important levers of power. Only gradually, and with care, can corruption be rooted out.
Finally, a focus on security is needed. The development sector has sometimes failed to appreciate the importance of investing in policing and security interventions. However, in a post-conflict situation where people are expecting less violence but the threat of more is just around the corner, security has to be a key priority. It is incredibly difficult to get right – especially as Colombia’s security services have themselves been strongly implicated in corrupt and violent practices – but it cannot be ignored.
For these reasons and many others, the international community will be needed more than ever if Colombians vote “si”. Rather than exiting the scene as though the job were done, international agencies – both official and non-governmental – should be doubling or tripling their presence and levels of investment. The history of Colombia and of countless other conflict countries shows that a return to violence of some kind is, depressingly, a likely scenario. [Continue reading…]