The Stream

Colombia, FARC end civil war

After a 52-year conflict, will Colombians back historic peace deal with Marxist rebels?

Colombians are days away from a referendum on whether to accept the government’s peace deal with the rebel group FARC, formally ending one of the world’s longest-running civil wars. What began as a peasant uprising in the 1960s turned into a five-decade conflict that has killed at least 220,000 people and displaced millions more. Under the agreement, the rebels will move to designated UN observer zones and turn in their weapons. Using the concept of “limited amnesty”, those who confess to abuses will be able to avoid jail time by conducting development work as “reparations” to their victims. The government has promised to address the rebels’ key grievance of unequal land distribution, and help their areas shift away from dependence on cocaine trafficking. FARC rebels will also be integrated into Colombia’s political system, starting with guaranteed parliamentary seats in 2018.

Critics of the agreement from the human rights and victims’ advocacy communities though say it will grant impunity to FARC guerrillas responsible for gross human rights violations against civilians, including killings, kidnappings, sexual violence, forced displacements, and torture. They also say members of the armed forces responsible for mass killings and other crimes will also avoid major punishment. Colombia’s right-wing opposition, led by former president Alvaro Uribe, says the terms are too favorable to the FARC and threaten to turn Colombia into a leftist state similar to Cuba and Venezuela, two countries that played critical roles in the talks. But supporters call the deal a necessary compromise, bringing peace to a divided country. While abusers may evade full justice, an expansive reconciliation process will attempt to provide victims and their families with an accounting of the crimes they endured.

We’ll explore the dynamics of the Colombia peace deal, and hear from supporters and opponents.

On this episode, we speak to: 

Adam Isacson @adam_wola
Regional Security Policy Program Director, Washington Office on Latin America

Mario Murillo @marioradio99
Professor of Radio, Television, Film, Hofstra University

Paloma Valencia @PalomaValenciaL
Senator, Democratic Center Party

Daniel García-Peña J @danigarciapena
Activist, professor of political science

What do you think? Share your views in the comments section below.