Colombia. On June 21, the Conservative Party NFD’s (Nueva Fuerza Democrática) Andrés Pastrana won the second round of the presidential election and replaced the outgoing president Ernesto Samper. However, the opposition retained the majority in Congress. According to Countryaah, the capital of Colombia is Bogota. Pastrana promised hard financial austerity and peace talks with the guerrilla movements, mainly FARC and ELN. The election was preceded, as always, by an escalation of their decades-old political struggle. Political violence in the country harvests thousands of victims annually and also has a staggering economic dimension: it is estimated to cost society $ 5 billion a year, and an immediate halt to the violence would mean a 1.5 percentage point increase in GDP.
Despite Latin America’s highest military budget, Colombia’s army has failed to defeat guerrillas, and in March it suffered its greatest defeat of 50 years in a fierce battle. The vulnerability of the Colombian state is made clear by the government being forced to meet the guerrillas’ demand for demilitarization of certain areas as a precondition for the release of the hostages, which, however, gave free space for the activities of cocaine cartels. The United States, which provides financial support for the fight against these, has protested and threatened to withdraw its support unless human rights are increased in Colombia. The army is considered to cooperate with death patrols and the notorious paramilitary forces whose main tactic of weakening guerrilla support is terror against the civilian population, which has long been the main victim of the conflict. During the year, for example, about 250,000 people flee the violence, and in the city of Barrancabermeja alone there are 5,000 refugees. The government army and guerrilla movements are also accused of human rights violations, even though the ELN guerrillas mainly focus on sabotage against oil installations. The situation is also complicated by the fact that the guerrilla movements largely finance their war through cocaine cultivation. In June, a preliminary agreement with ELN was concluded in Mainz, Germany, and in October President Pastrana declared the peace process initiated by giving the ELN political status. Although all the parties involved say they want a political solution, the violence continues; In October, 66 people were killed in a fire caused by an attack on an oil pipeline in the state of Antioquia.
Implementation of the peace agreement
Implementation of the peace agreement started relatively quickly, especially with regard to the demobilization of large parts of the FARC. However, the authorities have received a lot of criticism for wrongdoing by following up their part of the agreement. Peace work got a further blow to the bow when Ivan Duque of the Centro Democrático party was elected president in June 2018. Duque pursues a right-wing policy with business interests at the center, and was selected for his criticism of both the peace agreement with FARC and ongoing negotiations with the ELN- guerrillas.
The demobilization of the FARC guerrilla was initiated with the support of the UN immediately after the agreement was signed. 26 demobilization centers were established. According to official figures, over 13,000 people had demobilized from the FARC as a result of the peace agreement up to the end of the 2018/2019 year. A number of programs were created to assist the demobilized in returning to civilian life.
In line with the partial agreement on political participation, the FARC has been transformed into a political party and can thus participate in democratic electoral processes. At the FARC’s first congressional elections in March 2018, support was modest; only 0.34 percent of voters, about 50,000 voters. However, during the 2018-2022 congressional period, FARC secured five representatives in the Senate and five more in the House of Representatives as a result of the peace agreement.
In line with the Victims’ Rights Agreement, a Truth Commission was established in April 2018 with the mandate to investigate and resolve systematic human rights violations committed during the more than 50-year conflict. The Truth Commission had eleven members and a time frame of three years. A special court, known as JEP by its Spanish name (Justicia Especial para la Paz), was also created as a result of the peace agreement, mandated to bring legal proceedings against FARC members, civilians, police and military who have committed grave human rights violations. The Court has faced opposition from several fronts, including President Ivan Duque, who is very critical of the principles of transitional justice on which the Court is based and has promoted legislative changes on the Court’s functions and mandate.
The problems related to the manufacture, sale and export of drugs are still great in Colombia. Much indicates that cocaine production has increased following the peace agreement and new criminal organizations operate in former FARC controlled areas. This poses a major security risk to the local population in many areas. Local leaders in grassroots organizations are particularly vulnerable to threats and violence. According to Colombia’s national ombudsman, 164 community and civil society leaders were killed in the country in 2018.