Colombia’s Fragile Peace

Why a Deal With the FARC Still Isn’t Guaranteed

A mural in Bogotá representing Colombia's victims of violence, November 2016. John Vizcaino / Reuters

This June, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that they had reached a preliminary agreement on peace. The deal sets the conditions for a ceasefire in the FARC’s long-running insurgency and for the group’s eventual disarmament and demobilization. Even as the agreement suggests hope for peace, however, it also raises the specter of a volatile transition period and casts doubt on Colombia’s security environment if a final deal is ever implemented. Yet whether good or bad, a signed peace deal between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC looks increasingly probable, and is sure to radically transform the Andean nation.

The current breakthrough comes after four years of negotiations and over 50 years of fighting, and is largely a product of timing. By August this year, the Santos administration will have only two years left in office. Anything negotiators agree upon still faces a long and difficult process before becoming law. For instance, after the completion of negotiations—a difficult task in itself—Colombians will be asked to approve the agreement in a referendum. If the referendum is successful, Santos will be granted special legislative powers for a maximum of six months to implement the agreement. FARC leaders, who have obtained significant concessions such as permission to participate in legal politics and changes in state agricultural policy, have therefore chosen to speed up negotiations to ensure that these concessions become law before a new government comes to power in 2018.

The Colombian plan to secure a ceasefire and demobilize the FARC follows a similar logic to that used to put an end to other difficult domestic conflicts. According to the agreement, the FARC will concentrate its troops in a number of designated demilitarized areas, which will be guarded by government forces, where they will surrender their weapons in a series of stages over a period of 180 days. The process will be supervised by a United Nations mission composed mostly of

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