By Daniel Salamanca-Pérez
EspañolThe announcement of a “historic” deal reached between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) caused euphoria as President Santos claimed it was the end to over 50 years of conflict. But it’s important to highlight four caveats.
Understanding the real scope and consequences of the peace process with FARC is particularly important because Colombians will have to vote in a referendum in order to approve the final deal.
1. Is this a historic agreement?
Hardly. As senator Claudia López has pointed out in her most recent book, Colombia has had at least 10 peace processes within the last four generations, including today’s millennials.
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An important accord with armed groups, in fact, led to the drafting of a new constitution in 1991. There’s nothing new in this peace process, even if it’s a source of joy to demobilize an army of criminals (a term that deserves some discussion).
2. Will the armed forces have the same treatment as terrorists before the law?
No. Even if it hurts to admit it, the FARC do have an ideology, just like the Nazis and Bolsheviks had. That doesn’t bar them from being criminals. If we’re talking about political participation, I’d rather have all forces arguing in Congress instead of shooting each other with the excuse of quelling socialism or eliminating the bourgeoisie. Politically, the FARC will die on their own. Their ideas are stupid, populist, and unattainable.
3. Does this deal mean the end of the conflict?
No. That would be true if the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas wee also involved. Also, the FARC aren’t the only obstacle to peace. Let’s not forget about the heavily armed criminal gangs that control a large part of the drug trade, the so-called “Bacrim.” We have to be aware that things aren’t going to be as easy as the government’s propaganda suggests.
As long as peasants remain so grossly uneducated. As long as Colombians don’t lose the fear of scraping their knees in the market to learn about management. As long as there are so many barriers for entrepreneurship. As long as the state and violent actors determine where we can live. As long as we keep believing that our comparative advantage is in commodities and we don’t explore any other way of creating value. As long as we continue to have an economy based on extraction, as if we were still part of the myopic Spanish Empire. As long as we think it’s easier for a camel to go into a needle’s eye than a rich man to heaven. As long as all this continues, conflict will continue.
Illicit economies like illegal mining, drug dealing, or smuggling are proof of this. That’s why honest work (regulated incessantly by people born with a silver spoon in their mouths) doesn’t pay in Colombia. Or at least it doesn’t pay as much as illegal trades do. We have to leave legal formalism aside, the tendency to form oligopolies, and realize that it’s vital to let “free will” reign free.
We have to leave behind our distrust toward the private sector. The problem isn’t private business; it’s dishonest, treacherous, unscrupulous people. There are plenty of dishonest people in the public sector too.
4. Did the Santos government hand the country over to Communism?
No. Communism will not come to Colombia with this peace deal despite the government’s alliance with the Chavista regime in Venezuela. On the contrary, socialism can be achieved gradually, with each decision that allows corrupt politicians to regulate citizens’ culture and the children’s education. But private actors can also contribute with their dishonesty and corruption. It comes from our inability to form a line before entering a bus. We then have to ask for more policemen to tell us how to behave.
Communism can come about when we become used to requesting the government’s coercive power to settle matters that we could easily regulate ourselves.
Tu summarize, the quality of this debate is extremely poor, and given the current circumstances it becomes fundamental that all Colombians with the ability to vote in the coming referendum become aware of how dangerous it is to vote “yes” or “no” based on herd instincts. We should inform ourselves before we vote.
*Daniel Salamanca-Pérez is a Colombian lawyer and university lecturer.