Political Violence, Election Uncertainty Challenge Colombia's Peace Process. - Vol. 27 Nbr. 4, February 2018 - NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs - Books and Journals - VLEX 702439633

Political Violence, Election Uncertainty Challenge Colombia's Peace Process.

Author:Gaudin, Andres

As Colombia gears up for its next elections--on March 11 for the legislature and on May 27 for president--the peace that was secured, or so the public thought, in November 2016, now seems to be slipping away.

The warmongering far-right, led by Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), the twice-elected former president, is gaining ground, and its candidates are strengthening--to the point of warning that they'll annul the peace accords. Meanwhile, the governing coalition still hasn't settled on a candidate it can put forth as a successor to President Juan Manuel Santos. The various centrist parties have decided to join together behind a single candidate, but they will wait to select that person, through internal elections, until after the legislative vote takes place in March.

In the meantime, the guerrilla movement turned political party (NotiSur, Sept. 22, 2017) that now goes by the name Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Comun (Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, FARC) is seeing its members being killed on a regular basis by far-right squadrons and allied paramilitary organizations. The same goes for civil society groups working to strengthen the peace process and defend human rights.

As Colombian economist Camilo Rengifo Mann of the Centro Latinoamericano de Analisis Estrategico (Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis, CLAE) argued in various news outlets throughout the region, few in Colombia could have imagined that the peace, which had taken three years of negotiations to achieve, could be destroyed in such a short amount of time by the combined actions of an extreme right clamoring for the military extermination of all dissidence and an ineffective, outgoing government that has little to show for its eight years in power.

Government missteps

Many analysts agree with Rengifo that President Santos committed multiple errors after signing the peace accord. The first was submitting the accord's contents to an unnecessary constitutional referendum. All the deal really needed to go into effect, they argue, was legislative approval, which was assured. But Santos agreed to play the game that Uribe proposed--putting the issue to a plebiscite--and on Oct. 2, 2016, he lost. On a playing field that Uribe handled far better than Santos, and with a measly 37% of eligible voters participating, the "No to peace" option prevailed by barely 60,000 votes: 50.2% to 49.8% (NotiSur, Oct. 21, 2016).

Adding to the problem of the referendum result --which...

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