Peace Talks Get FARC Closer to Political Participation

By Dialogo
November 14, 2012

Peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government that will start in Havana, Cuba, on November 19 poses a challenge for the guerrillas to diversify into a legal political movement and the authorities to guarantee security, respectively.

The FARC, last long-living active guerrillas in Latin America, currently has 9,000 fighters that might be reinstated into civil life and yet somehow be held accountable for their actions against thousands of victims during the armed conflict of almost 50 years.

Analysts considered that prior experiences in peace negotiations with Colombian guerrillas, who generally benefited from amnesties, will not contribute significantly as a point of reference in this instance.

“There are no plans of granting absolute amnesty. We might consider a pardon to the troops, but higher and middle commands will have to face trials and penalties. This does not mean they are not able to benefit from sentence suspensions or reductions,” said Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group Institute director for Latin America and the Caribbean to the press.

In view of this situation, President Juan Manuel Santos’ government was able to pass the “legal framework for peace” this year in Congress. It consists of a mechanism which considers sentence suspension and other legal benefits to disarmed guerrillas, but which must be regulated.

However, the sentences already passed on to FARC commanders in absentia, prohibit their political participation for life, recalled Ciurlizza, explaining that government must be able to find a way “to create some kind of political voice in politics.”

The creation of a party entails several difficulties for the FARC. Ciurlizza highlights that one of the guerrilla’s difficulties is their lack of a clear political program, as well as reaching a certain number of supporters and voting percentage requirements.

In case legal requirements are met and the FARC guarantees sufficient participation, the guerrillas and the government will have to deal with public opinion as well, after the peace process that has categorically excluded civil society, stated María Victoria Llorente, from independent Colombian think tank Ideas for Peace Foundation.

Most Colombian citizens “understand this peace process as a political negotiation, although they do not agree to grant political participation to guerrillas, and they demand no impunity for them,” said Llorente.