The longest running war in the Americas may be on the verge of ending, putting a stop to more than 50 years of conflict in Colombia.
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos announced this week that an agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been reached, potentially stopping a violent ideological war that started in 1964.
"Today begins the end of the suffering, the pain and the tragedy of war," President Juan Manuel Santos said in a national address. "Let's open the door together to a new stage in our history."
The armed conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced more than 5 million, leaving many pessimistic that peace would ever come. FARC, a left-wing nationalist guerrilla group, has used military tactics, and sometimes terrorism, kidnapping, and ransoms to advance their agenda and power. One last step remains in the agreement, which is a vote by the people on an up-or-down referendum.
And while this may be the closest Colombians have come to peace in decades, some aren't optimistic about what the deal means. As part of the deal, FARC will slowly put down their arms, but also enter civilian life and run for office. A Plus spoke to several Colombian residents who suggested President Santos was pushing the deal simply to be the president who ended the war, and giving far too many concessions to FARC.
"This new deal promises money and the power for some to run for office, which I guess is OK if they want to form their own party system," Jose Buitrago, whose grandfather was kidnapped and killed by FARC in 2002, told A Plus. "However, I find no reason to trust this."
For Colombians who have been affected by the violence, FARC members not seeing any jail time or getting the chance at public office is a frightening prospect. Santos' predecessor, Álvaro Uribe — who was responsible for an armed push that weakened FARC — has publicly criticized the peace deal as being too lenient on the guerrilla group.
"They will spend zero days in prison, they will be awarded with political representation," Paloma Valencia, a senator who is advocating against the deal, told The New York Times. "This deal breaks the rule of law."
Felipe Delgado, a resident of Colombia who spoke with A Plus, shared those concerns.
"Impunity is the aspect about this agreement that worries me the most," Delgado said. "We're talking about people who have massacred innocent people for no reason, kidnapped thousands, and have funded their actions with drugs for decades. And they won't pay any time in jail? Seriously?"
Others are more concerned with whether FARC's guerrilla soldiers, who know nothing of life in mainstream society, can become productive members of society. There's also the issue of the drug trade, which has helped fund FARC for years. Will the rebels release their grip on it?
Still, if FARC upholds its end of their deal, it'd be a mark of incredible progress for the country. Citizens of rural Colombia who have been living in fear of kidnappings for decades may find peace of mind, and the end of military conflict inside the country is expected to improve the economy and open the door for democratic peace.
(H/t: The New York Times)
Cover photo: Flickr