Powerful Opening for the Start of the Colombian Peace Process

By Dialogo
October 22, 2012

The Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas showed a harsh – and sometimes tense – tone at the start of the peace process on October 18. However, both parties highlighted their will to achieve an agreement to put an end to almost half a century of armed conflict, according to analysts.

Gathered for the formal ceremony to begin peace talks at a hotel north of Oslo, where they announced that they will carry out negotiations in Cuba starting on November 15, both sides adopted a distant attitude, without exchanging looks or handshakes.

“Each party has clearly established their starting point. For the FARC, peace will not be possible without social changes, while the government insisted that armed conflict should be changed into political combat in a democratic scenario,” political scientist Jaime Zuluaga from the Colombian National University, told AFP.

While Iván Márquez, chief of the guerrilla delegation, stated in his speech that “peace is not equivalent to the silence of rifles, but it encompasses the transformation of the State structure,” government delegate Humberto De la Calle recognized that “ending the conflict is the precursor to peace.”

Beyond that coincidence, however, strong contradictions that threaten to accentuate Colombia’s divisions surfaced; throughout half a century, the armed conflict has left hundreds of thousands dead, and 3.7 million people displaced by violence.

“I would like to reiterate that talks will not be centered on an economic development model, or foreign investment. For that to happen, the FARC must disarm, get involved in politics, and win elections,” said De la Calle after Márquez’ speech, where he questioned the presence of multinational companies in Colombia and referred to them as “vampires.”

Nevertheless, other sensitive matters that go beyond the peace talks came up.

“We have not committed crimes against the people,” declared Iván Márquez, number two in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. “The FARC should identify their victims,” responded De la Calle, who was Colombian vice-president between 1994 and 1996.