Peace is irreversible in Colombia, proclaims former president Santos

When he met the guerrilla leader, he remembers the confession they made: “You and I have wanted to kill each other for many years.” Today, the former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos sees Rodrigo Londoño as an ally in the defense of the peace that they agreed against five years ago.

In an interview with AFP, Santos abounds in the anecdote. In 2015, after both shared their death intentions (four years earlier Santos had given the order to kill Londoño’s predecessor in the rebel command), the president told him:

“We are going to be rowing in the same boat and in the same direction, which is the direction of peace.” The prediction was fulfilled.

Santos defends the will for peace of Londoño or Timochenko, the last leader of a rebellion of 13,000 men and women who for more than half a century sought power without success with hundreds of thousands of victims involved, most of them civilians.

“I think Rodrigo Londoño has fulfilled and is committed to that goal, he continues to row as I continue to row,” he illustrates.

Liberal of noble birth, Santos gained fame as a traitor among the radical right by signing peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in November 2016.

He called and lost the plebiscite on the agreements, made adjustments to the agreement in Cuba and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

62-year-old and in poor health, Timochenko is also seen as a traitor by former comrades who followed or returned to arms. In 2020 the police assured that they thwarted a plan to assassinate him.

Five years after the peace they both signed, the 70-year-old former president shares his analysis and celebrates that the conservative government of Iván Duque has gotten on “the peace train” and wants to comply with the agreement, despite its failed attempt to modify the agreement.

Here are some of their responses:

Question: What is your balance?

Answer: I would like us to celebrate these five years because (…) 95% or more of the ex-guerrillas are within the agreement; because the special justice for peace (…) has worked and is moving faster than any other agreement in recent history. The demobilization, disarmament and reintegration have been accomplished in record time and that must be celebrated. Many, many agreements have been undone, they have failed in the first three, four, five years.

On the other hand, it is important that there are many points of the agreement that have not been implemented, that have problems and that we still have 10 more years to do so.

Q: Is peace irreversible?

A: Without a doubt, this agreement is irreversible (…) No agreement has had so much support from the international community, no agreement like the peace agreement that we signed five years ago has had resolutions unanimously supported by the Security Council of Nations United. That gives you tremendous strength.

Q: Has the agreement served the victims?

A: I think an enormous effort has been made. Let’s not forget that there are more than nine million victims, that is unprecedented anywhere in the world. That we have already repaired more than a million victims, that also has no precedent (…) What is missing a lot? Of course, but that will take generations, there will always be groups of victims who will say “we lack reparation.”

Q: But violence is returning to various regions of the country …

A: Those who say that the violence we are seeing is the product of the agreement are wrong. It is the lack of implementation of the agreements. The violence that we are seeing, the murder of ex-combatants – we are already in about 300 -, of social leaders who have to do with points of the agreement, such as land restitution, the voluntary substitution of illicit crops, the part environmental. This is due to a lack of security policy of the Colombian state. (…) It was evident that the FARC were leaving the areas they controlled and that there was going to be a dispute over those territories.

Q: Has the ex-guerrilla complied?

A: Generally speaking, yes. The fact that despite the difficulties more than 95% of the demobilized are in the agreement (…) is a very important aspect. I believe that with what they have done with the special justice of peace, of recognizing war crimes and crimes against humanity, it is a very important step because we do not forget that this agreement is the first agreement in the world where the two parties agree a justice system and they agree to submit to that justice system, and that’s what we’re doing.

The guerrillas can make more efforts in matters of truth, they can make more efforts in terms of informing the authorities (…) of the drug trafficking routes that they knew about.

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Peace is irreversible in Colombia, proclaims former president Santos