Not Defeated

For 52 years, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia waged war against the Colombian people, bringing forth left-wing ideals. Usually known by its Spanish acronym, FARC is a Leninist-Marxist militia group that opposes the privatization of natural resources and wishes to represent the rural poor against Colombia’s wealthy. According to the United States Developing Agency, 0.4 percent of the population owns 62 percent of Colombia’s best land, making it understandable that FARC would fight for the equality of the poor. But the means by which they worked to reach those ends caused five decades of sorrow, pain, violence and fear.

The means were displacing five to seven million people, breeding child soldiers, installing landmines in crops and villages all around Colombia and kidnapping members of government and corporations. FARC also financed their operations with drug money, making it impossible to combat narco-trafficking.

In 2012, peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government began in Havana, Cuba, to put an end to the war. The talks were emotional for the Colombian people. Many did not want to negotiate with terrorists, not trusting anything FARC had to contribute on the matter. Others were ready to begin the healing process. The divide we see today has been brewing for four years. 

On Oct. 3, 2016 Colombia rejected a peace treaty that would end the five-decade war with FARC: Colombia decided to go back to the drawing board and draft out a new treaty, but according to CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post, Colombia gave up the opportunity for a peaceful future. Headlines such as “Colombia’s president scrambles to save peace accord with FARC rebels” and “Colombia Peace Deal Is Defeated, Leaving a Nation in Shock” make it seem as if the Colombian people were confused and disorganized, therefore deciding that war is better than peace. Surprise, surprise — Western media got it wrong. President Santos was not scrambling to save peace: He and FARC’s current president, Timoleón Jimenez, quickly agreed to sit back down and renegotiate the problematic points. Hope was not lost: Colombians are not defeated. 

The five key points of the approximately 100-page agreement are a cease fire, the protection of victims rights, land restitution, the reintegration of FARC into civil society and an effort to combat narco-trafficking. These sounds reasonable enough — but those who voted “NO” had some issues with the details of the agreement. 

Colombia’s former President, Alvaro Uribe, is fixated on the fact that FARC members need to be punished for their crimes, and his influence on the Colombian people has pushed this view far and wide. Uribe is the sole reason FARC has been weakened militarily, and his amazing leadership got him re-elected twice. However, it is time to let go of the guns. Many citizens believe that reinstating the 17,500 members of FARC into everyday Colombia with little to no punishment is unfair: “They’re terrorists,” and therefore should be punished as such. Many who voted “NO,” think the treaty was too lenient and should have harsher conditions for FARC members. They want to renegotiate. 

Others believe that allowing FARC to have a political party and giving them seats in Congress right away is an attack on democracy and will have Colombia turn into Venezuela and Cuba. Maybe that fear comes from the fact that there is so much economic inequality in Colombia that it is easy to see why the Colombian middle class, which is most of the population, opts for a system that would guarantee more equality. Most of the country would lean towards a leftist/welfare political view. FARC does not have the best reputation for doing things peacefully, and many fear that they will exploit their political power to censor the media and become an autocratic government. Many who voted “NO” believed that giving FARC a political party right off the bat with seats in Congress is unfair to up-and-coming politicians. They want to renegotiate. 

Some Colombians believe that the reparations for the victims are not enough: 2,700 families are still looking for missing children and family members. There are no parts of the treaty that address bringing people back to their loved ones. Also, there seems to be a clear set plan on how to make FARC members adapt to everyday life, but there is no step-by-step plan for reparations themselves. The millions of people who were displaced have no guarantee of going home either. Many who voted “NO” believe that victims deserve more than a few lines in a peace treaty and a little more enforcement in guaranteeing reparations. They want to renegotiate. 

It is disappointing that Colombia did not vote “YES” in the referendum, but saying that the Colombian people are an example of why democracy does not work — looking at you, New York Times — is unfair to those who simply want terms the entire country can get on board with. You can only have peace if it’s unanimous, not when there is such a divide. Colombia did not reject peace: Colombia wants to renegotiate