People’s participation strong in Colombia peace talks

By on February 10, 2013

The peace negotiations that started in Havana, Cuba, in November between the FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejercito del Pueblo) and the Colombian government are still developing and moving ahead.

At the end of the third round on the topic of agrarian reform, the first item on the talk’s six-point agenda, both sides approved a joint statement. In the Jan. 24 statement they said that despite some differences, the talks were going well and have found common ground.

On Jan. 31, the fourth round of talks began despite maneuvers to stop them by Colombia’s extreme right wing, represented by former President Alvaro Uribe and forcefully echoed by the corporate media outlets.

What’s driving the talks forward is not only the will on both sides of the negotiating table, but the will of the masses of people in Colombia who want and demand peace with social and economic justice.

People’s participation

From the beginning, the FARC-EP has said that only the people’s participation will make a durable peace possible. And just as the FARC-EP proposed, many organizations, movements and individuals have responded to the request for ideas and participation.

In December, a very successful three-day public forum was held at the National University in Bogota to tackle the “Politics of a Comprehensive Agrarian Development.” Colombia and the USA still persecute the FARC as a “terrorist” organization, even though they recognize the group as one side of the negotiations. This irony of history prevented the FARC from calling the public forum in its own name.

Instead, the United Nations and the National University of Colombia hosted the 20-workshop event. The complete program and proposals from the people can be read at the FARC website, farcforopaz.blogspot.com.

The participation and work of the people at the forum became the basis for “Ten proposals for a policy of comprehensive agricultural and rural development with a territorial approach.” The FARC then took these proposals to the negotiating table, making good on their promise to include the voice and will of the people of Colombia as the main participant in the talks.

The FARC-EP also opened a website designed for feedback from the people: mesadeconversaciones.com.co. As of Feb. 4, the proposals numbered 3,174.

The website is divided into four parts. One is the complete “General Accord for the End of the Conflict and the Building of a Stable and Durable Peace.”

Two parts are interactive, so people can submit proposals for any of the six points on the agenda. These points include comprehensive agricultural development policy; political participation; end of the conflict; solution to the problem of illicit drugs; human rights and search for the truth regarding the victims of the conflict; and the implementation, verification and ratification of the accord. The other interactive part is for comments about the general accord.

The fourth part contains all the documents stored for public viewing and consultation.

Beginning of the process

This is but the beginning of the process of including the people in the talks. The FARC is constantly encouraging the participation of all organizations and individuals. And many organizations are responding, demanding of the Colombian government that they be included in the negotiations.

Diverse movements have been mobilizing and building their ranks for this participation. They include Indigenous, Afro Colombians, labor, the Patriotic March, youth and students, etc.

Ex-Senator Piedad Córdoba, head of Colombianos y Colombianas por la Paz, said in a recent meeting in Bogota: “On April 9 we will mobilize the entire country, not thousands but hundreds of thousands to surround the talks, to tell the enemies of peace that this historic opportunity, we cannot let it pass by.” (www.anncol.eu)

At the end of April, COORDOSAC, the Departmental Coordinating Group of Social, Environmental and Peasant’s Organizations of Caqueta, is holding a four-day forum described as the “First National and International Gathering of Women for Dignity and Peace.” One of the main topics is the role of women in the peace negotiation process.

The peace negotiation is now the most important issue in Colombia. President Juan Manuel Santos’ government thought it could have an “express” peace process where the guerrilla army would be demobilized and its credibility lost. On the contrary, the government is exposed when it publicly refuses to accept any of the demands made by the people.

In the negotiations the government side still sits at the table and pretends to find common ground. But back in Colombia, the military, the extreme right wing and the main corporate media try to sabotage the process.

Santos, who will be running for reelection in 2014, has refused to agree to a bilateral ceasefire proposed by the FARC; a ceasefire would provide an environment conducive to the quest for peace. He has also commented that “la guerra la vamos a ganar por las buenas o por las malas” (“we will win the war by hook or by crook”). (kaosenlared.net)

But it is the Colombian people, who seem to be firm in their quest for peace with ­social justice, who will decide in the end.

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