Colombian Military’s Peacetime Campaign Aims to Conquer People’s Hearts

By Dialogo
May 24, 2016

For General Juan Pablo Rodríguez Barragán
, Commander of the Colombian Military Forces, the institutional campaign We are in the Hearts of Colombians, and That’s Where We Will Stay
, which the General Command is conducting under his leadership, carries a very important philosophical meaning. "It means that Colombians really value the effort, sacrifice, [and] heroism of all members of the Military Forces, of all our land, sea and air Troops, as well as of our police. They know that having made such a great sacrifice is precisely what brings us today so close to achieving that very important goal for all Colombians, which is peace".

That peace, as General Rodríguez has mentioned on several occasions, "is due to the effort, [and] heroism of all Soldiers and police" who, even at the expense of their own lives, have given their all to reestablish security and protect Colombians throughout more than 50 years of a bloody war against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

"In that sense, this campaign seeks to thank the Colombian people for the support they give us every day. This campaign seeks to highlight patriotic values and wants to remind Colombians that there were many heroes who offered up even their own lives, many heroes who are wounded, many heroes who are currently suffering from the deep wounds inflicted by war, but who, in spite of all those sacrifices, that price they paid, did it with much patriotism. Today we see how this Colombian homeland has changed, how it has grown stronger, how its rule of law has been strengthened, how its democracy has been strengthened, and we stand, as I told you initially, at the threshold of achieving a very important goal, which would be to bring an end to the conflict with the FARC and the ELN and to begin to build a stable and lasting peace," General Rodríguez told Diálogo

Faith in the Cause

Marine Infantry Lieutenant Colonel Fernando Moreno, who currently works at the Joint Integrated Action Headquarters as advisor to General Rodríguez, explains that the current campaign is a continuation of its predecessor, Faith in the Cause.
"More than a slogan, a real command policy has been developed by the Military’s leadership: Army, Navy, and Air Force, and when we were at a defining stage in the conflict, that faith of believing in what we are doing, of believing in where we are going, of materializing all that development and military capacity was cemented in the hearts of our soldiers. Now that we are at this stage of signing an accord with the FARC and the ELN, our primary internal threats, when we stand at the threshold of that stage of transition into post-conflict, we can say that we are in the hearts of Colombians and that is where we will stay."

It is definitely not just a phrase; it is a philosophy. The campaign finds support through the protection that the military brings to the civilian population. Whether in times of peace or in times of war, they are going to be there. "We see how the population is really beginning to recognize the efforts undertaken by their Military Forces, which, was the government representative in many places for many years," explained Lt. Col. Moreno. " The government brought the capabilities to improve the quality of life of our inhabitants through [the presence of] its Military Forces. And we are currently in that non-kinetic effort phase."

Cocoa, Coffee, Rice, and Dairy Products

The non-kinetic effort Lt. Col. Moreno refers to is an effort that does not require the use of weapons. Soldiers are supporting the development of remote areas by building roads, schools, hospitals, and other facilities, through military engineers with state funds, through other ministries, and with the help of the private sector.

Two examples of this inter-agency cooperation are the oil infrastructure projects developed in the departments of Arauca and Putumayo with the participation of the private sector and international cooperation. For their part, the Military Forces were able to achieve significant rapprochement with indigenous communities to teach them ways to grow legal crops such as cocoa, coffee, rice, and dairy products.

For example, the department of Cauca is a large exporter of coffee produced by the indigenous Naasa community, while Caquetá department supplies almost 60 percent of all the cheese distributed in the country nationally. "So that is the result, that is how that inter-agency cooperation has led us to a process of stabilization and consolidation," said Lt. Col. Moreno proudly. "This is the strategy reflected in the campaign: remaining in the hearts of Colombians, providing them a better quality of life, leading social development, and rebuilding the social fabric, and in response, there is support for the Military Forces from the community, from the population for this honest task."

Artists for the Cause

The campaign has even reached the hearts of famous Colombian artists, such as popular singers Fonseca, Andrés Cepeda, and Jorgito Celedón, who have given free concerts in which they promote the ideals of the program to the people. "The truth is that we are proud to know that there is credibility in the execution of these projects. The population feels at peace when they see that the Military Forces are leading, supporting the government agencies or private agencies, and that peace that the population feels upon seeing the leadership of its Military Forces is our primary point of reference. That is how we define being and truly remaining in the heart [of the population] and providing that social development," said Lt. Col. Moreno.

Aside from remaining in the hearts of Colombians through their participation in these civil action projects, the country's Military Forces are initiating the process of adapting to what will be their new post-conflict reality. "We are visualizing that our primary role will be one of integrated action. Surely, from the military side, safeguarding our borders, peacekeeping, and international exchange operations will be strengthened; but the primary role within the country will be to generate development. All this inter-agency capability, that is where we are headed," concluded Lt. Col. Moreno.