Peace in Colombia

Fernando Mendez | 9/8/2017, 10:55 a.m.
Peace in Colombia

Now that one of the last rebel groups has just signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government, we can say: peace at last. And indeed it has taken so many cases of cruelty, violence, sadness and suffering for the people that at last it is possible to breathe with the air of hope. Peace is a not too distant light in the distance as the country prepares to welcome Pope Francis whom President Santos credits for intervening to enable an agreement to be reached. After thousands of opportunities lost on both sides, sometimes inexplicable reticence on the part of the government, but almost always by fault of the FARC or the ELN or the other groups that committed so many crimes and therefore feared to be justly punished, the country can finally harbor notions of an end to the war of more than half a century.

The efforts of President Juan Manuel Santos make it possible to speak today of a lasting peace. In another surprising event for some, one of the most powerful cartels formerly known as Urabeños and now called the Gulf Clan, has told President Santos that he wants to surrender and submit to a legal process. Santos announced that his government will investigate the veracity of the offer, but that the group will receive no special treatment and that they will be treated according to the legal requirements under which other groups have surrendered.

Pope Francis will find a divided country despite the peace talks and the promises of both sides to abide by the agreements they have signed. The leader of the Gulf Clan, known as Otoniel, has promised Santos that he will surrender in person. Santos promises to enforce the laws that govern with respect to the covenants. The agreement with the Gulf Gang members is controversial and there is great opposition because they committed numerous crimes, from kidnapping and extortion to murders among other crimes. In announcing that they wish to submit to justice, in some sectors they are expected to receive serious punishment. Former President Alvaro Uribe has expressed his disagreement with the way the Santos government has handled criminal groups. During the time of his term Uribe treated the guerrillas with a hard hand that caused him to be accused of human rights violations. But Uribe refused to let them control certain areas of the country. Uribe and Santos had maintained a cordial relationship until Santos won the election and decided to take another course as far as the FARC, ELN and other groups. When Santos came to power Uribe immediately declared that he did not agree with his policy. Now that peace is looming Uribe continues his attacks via Twitter announcing that Santos and the treaties with the guerrillas "are an official deception that is leading to becoming another Castro satellite." We will see if it is true that the legacy of Santos is a country of economic and social distrust that will benefit the FARC. We hope that is not the case.

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