Securing the Peace in Colombia

The Perils and Promise of the FARC Agreement

 Colombia's FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, signs a new peace accord in Bogota, Colombia, November 2016.  Jaime Salderriaga / REUTERS

When Colombian voters narrowly rejected a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a plebiscite last October, all seemed lost for Colombian President Juan Manual Santos. He had staked his legacy on the accord, painstakingly negotiated over four years in Cuba, with the goal of ending Latin America’s last guerrilla insurgency and delivering genuine peace to the country for the first time in generations. 

The wounds were hardly healed days later, when Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It only served to remind many Colombians that the official peace process has always been more popular among global elites than among the country’s citizens.

Still, undaunted, Santos quickly regrouped, met with his critics, and redeployed his negotiating team to Havana with some 500 proposed modifications to the agreement. With some of those changes incorporated after several rounds of new talks, he submitted the modified agreement to the Colombian Congress (forgoing another plebiscite), which subsequently approved the accord unanimously on November 30. On paper at least, Colombia is now officially at peace.

But for all of Santos’s tenacity and adroitness in responding to the October defeat, serious questions remain about the longer-term prospects for peace in Colombia. Burdened as the process is by the lack of political consensus, an untrustworthy partner, and a politically weak, lame-duck president, it may be that getting to this point will turn out to have been the easiest part of the entire effort.


Colombians overwhelmingly support peace for their country; what they do not support is peace at any price. Many believe that the latest agreement grants FARC leaders impunity by not demanding more justice and accountability for their long record of crimes against the Colombian people. The arrogant attitude adopted by the FARC throughout years of negotiations has aggravated this sentiment. FARC leaders have never evinced any real remorse or contrition for their crimes, acting instead as though they were legitimate combatants on the same moral plane as the government.


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