Jean Arnault, the UN representative in Colombia, recently spoke on the post-conflict situation at the El Espectador Colombia 2020 forum, and said that more than half (55%) of FARC members have left areas intended to reintegrate ex-guerillas into civilian life.
Arnault pointed out in his report that the desertion from the program is mainly due to personal reasons, but that for the most part it is related to ‘disillusionment’ with the reintegration process and the peace agreement.
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“The ex-guerrillas numbered 8,000 in these special zones when the disarmament was concluded; in August 70% remained, and today 45% of ex-combatants are still in these areas,” he said.
The UN has been concerned about mismanagement in Colombia’s post-conflict and has begun to speak out on the subject.
He also explained that the special zones located in Policarpa, Nariño (in Colombia’s southwest) and Gallo, Córdoba (in the north), have been totally abandoned and the ex-guerrillas have moved to other regions.
The UN official stressed that one of the impediments to successful implementation among possible factors is access to land despite the formation of cooperatives, technical advice for productive projects, and the search for gainful employment on the part of ex-combatants.
“Naturally, access to land is not a guarantee of prosperity, but it has undoubtedly been one of the most attractive, most convincing scenarios for ex-combatants in many conflicts,” he said.
On the other hand, he said that there are difficulties in updating databases for the identification of ex-guerrillas; on several occasions the police have captured members of the FARC without identification, which causes inconveniences, as well as difficulty accessing banking and financial systems.
In this regard, Juan Villalba is the coordinator of La Elvira, the zone located in the rural area of the municipality of Buenos Aires, in the north of Cauca. He said that initially registered 310 guerrillas, and to date almost a hundred have deserted due to perceived grievances on the part of the ex-combatants.
“We have colleagues who have not yet solved the issues of documentation, accreditation, banking, and it begs the question why?” said the ex-guerrilla.
Villalba also added that the bureaucracy and the ineffectiveness of the state apparatus has led many of the ex-guerrillas to abandon the special zones, afraid of being threatened by paramilitary organizations.
“This state bureaucracy has really allowed many of our comrades from the reintegration zones to be discouraged and demoralized.”
He even warns that many of those men may rejoin the armed ranks of the FARC. “Suddenly because of the issue that our lives are endangered, they will again seek out armed groups to defend themselves, but they are making desperate decisions,” he said.
In contrast, the High Commissioner for Peace, Rodrigo Rivera, reported that the statements of the UN delegation took him by surprise because of his lack of context. He added that referring to an ex-guerrilla as a “dissident” for abandoning the special zones is irresponsible.
Regarding the escape of the guerrillas from their special zones, ex-Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez pointed out on his Twitter account that an ill peace only benefits President Juan Manuel Santos and members of the FARC.
For his part, the former Vice Minister of Defense, Rafael Guarín, called President Santos a “liar”.
Conservative presidential candidate Marta Lucia Ramirez, criticized the Santos government’s collaboration with the UN in the post-conflict. “How is it possible that a deal is made with the UN for a supposed demobilization, of which not even half of the demobilized are left? It’s time to return the Congressional seats of the FARC and the Nobel Prize of the president.”
Journalist Salud Hernández-Mora also criticized the deal:
“Arnault, of the UN, says that half of the guerrillas have now left their designated areas. He gets paid 56 million (Colombian pesos) a month in order to point out the obvious?” He added, “the function of the UN should have been to provide solutions and warn the government that it promised what it would not fulfill.”