Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Signed pact is just the beginning of Colombia's peace process (Sept. 27, 2016)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño signed the 297 page peace accord yesterday in an open-air ceremony in Cartagena attended by about 2,000 international dignitaries, reports the Wall Street Journal.

It was an image that Colombians have been yearning to see -- and a promise of peaceful politics that draws 52 years of fighting to a close, according to the New York Times. The international coverage is rife with emotional Colombian citizens praising peace. 

But La Silla Vacía's Juanita León says the ceremony's symbolism did spark the popular emotion needed to fully assure a win for peace in this weekend's upcoming plebiscite required to implement the accords.

And at a time when the region's politics are increasingly polarized between incoming right-wing governments and the end of the "pink tide's" leftist presidents, the peace pact is a moment of regional unity, noted several sources. Indeed, the ceremony offered the opportunity for a rare meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, report the Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times.

The ninety minute ceremony was filled with symbolic gestures, like when Santos took a dove shaped pin he has worn for years and gave it to his former adversary, who fastened it onto his own shirt, reports the Associated Press. Santos welcomed the FARC into democracy, reports El Espectador, and praised their decision to "exchange bullets for votes" as the "bravest and most intelligent a subversive group could make."

Though Londoño -- known by his nom-de-guerre Timochenko -- called on the Colombian government to honor promises to develop impoverished rural areas. But he also made a rare show of contrition, notes the WSJ, an important gesture ahead of the Sunday plebiscite on the pact. Though polls show that a majority the electorate favors the pact, many Colombians detest the guerrilla group and are loathe to concede pursuing justice for war crimes.

But, again, La Silla Vacía is far more critical than the international press. León criticizes Londoño's speech as "arrogant" for a country that would prefer to see him behind bars. And said he offered only a limited apology for the pain caused by the conflict. El Espectador was more positive, noting he asked the country to disarm hearts and minds. "I sincerely apologize to all the conflict's victims," said Londoño. 

Pacifista has highlights of Santos' and Londoño's speeches.

Critics of the deal, lead by former President Álvaro Uribe, said Santos is attempting to influence voters by holding the high profile event so close to the referendum, reports the Miami Herald.

But support for the peace pact is greatest in the rural areas most affected by violence, Woodrow Wilson Center expert Cynthia Arnson noted to the WSJ.

And transitional justice must not be confused with a general amnesty, warns peace process expert Mô Bleeker in an interview with Pacifista.

Civil society groups are struggling to give victims a chance to process their psychological wounds -- see this piece on "Que la paz te toque" by Fundación Mi Sangre, and the work of PazArte al campo.

The latest polls show the "yes" camp winning with 55 percent, over 36.6 in favor of "no," reports El TiempoEl Universal says polls show the "yes" camp could receive up to 66 percent. In a blog post from last week Andrés Gutiérrez analyzes the polls, showing a double digit lead for the "yes" vote, and show some of the regional trends. Though only 13 percent of the electorate must participate in the referendum for it's decision to be binding, an op-ed by Juan Tokatlian in El Tiempo notes that a higher participation rate would more auspiciously usher in a new era of peace. 

As Colombian's cast their votes on Sunday, FARC fighters will begin gathering in 27 camps around the country, where they will hand over their arms to a U.N. verification mission, reports El Tiempo. Within six months the FARC weapons will be melted down for three monuments to the victims of the conflict.

Beyond the direct implications of the deal in ending the conflict and providing a transitional justice framework, Colombian's need peace in order to continue developing the country, argues Ipsos Mori's sustainable development research director,
Jonathan Glennie, in a Guardian op-ed.

El Tiempo has an interesting piece on the challenges peace poses for the police, which must now focus on working with communities and on targeting local manifestations of organized crime, according to National Police director general Jorge Hernando Nieto.

Yellow butterflies: again speeches at yesterday's ceremony made reference to Gabriel García Márquez's fictional character, Mauricio Babilonia, and the yellow butterflies that followed him everywhere. "...Which once again proves that Gabriel García Márquez is the thread that conects Colombian identity," wrote Juanita León.

News Briefs
  • A string of apparent political assassinations in Rio de Janeiro has some calling for federal intervention, reports the Wall Street Journal. At least 15 politicians or candidates in the upcoming municipal elections have been killed in the greater Rio area since November of last year -- the latest was samba-school president running for city council who was shot dead yesterday.
  • Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has taken a spotlight role campaigning for his party's candidate in next month's elections. It's turning into a game-changer for the election and is energizing supporters in poor neighborhoods, reports the Associated Press. The twice-elected and twice-ousted leader has kept a low profile since returning from exile in 2011, but could regain influence if Maryse Narcisse, the presidential candidate for his Fanmi Lavalas party wins.
  • Mexico is suffering a rise in homicides after a three year decline, mostly related to organized crime, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The unresolved tragedy of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students "has become such a stain for the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto that it is now shorthand for the Mexican authorities’ reckless approach to human rights in the country – where those responsible for crimes such as torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances are rarely brought before the courts," writes Amnesty International's America's Director Erika Guevara-Rosas. (See yesterday's briefs on the two year anniversary of their disappearance.)
  • Mexico's Human Rights Commission determined that soldiers summarily executed six civilians in a 2012 incident in southern Guerrero state, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexico's ruling PRI party announced it will strip party rights from Veracruz governor Javier Duarte, who is under federal investigation for corruption, reports the Associated Press. (This is the guy under whose watch the state has become one of the most dangerous areas in the region for journalists, see Aug. 5's post.)
  • People deported from Britain -- like the 40 people deported to Jamaica on a charter flight earlier this month -- can find themselves displaced from communities they have lived in for decades, far from their families and with little legal recourse to appeal, reports the Guardian.
  • UFPE researcher José Luiz Ratton criticizes the implementation of Pacto Pela Vida in Brazil, saying it's doomed to failure under the current system, reports UOL.
  • Brazil's government Oscars committee has decided against sending the critically acclaimed film "Aquarius" as the country's contender at next year's Academy Awards. The decision has little to do with art, and everything to do with politics, say critics. The "Aquarius" cast and crew held placards denouncing the impeachment process of then-President Dilma Rousseff at the Cannes Film Festival. Screenings of the film across the country have become a catalyst for expressing outrage, reports the New York Times

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