Challenges Lie Ahead as Colombia Celebrates Historic Peace Deal

Source:  TeleSUR
August 25 2016

challenges lie ahead.jpg

Colombians in Bogota watch the announcement of the end of negotiations and the text of the final peace deal in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 24, 2016. | Photo: EFE

Colombia has still not launched a peace process with the country’s smaller guerilla army, the ELN.

Colombia has made history in Latin America

Colombia has made history in Latin America with the groundbreaking peace deal between the government and left-wing FARC rebels, but while the over half century-long war is finally over, difficult times still lay ahead to fully realize the promise of peace in the South American nation.

IN DEPTH:  Peace in Colombia

Agreements on six key issues

The nearly four-year peace process in Havana, Cuba, between the 52-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos achieved a landmark deal including agreements on six key issues: agrarian reform, political participation, disarmament and reincorporation of former combatants, illicit drugs, victims’ rights, and implementation of the end of the war.

Chief negotiators from both sides of the conflict, government delegation head Humberto de la Calle and FARC leader Ivan Marquez, signed and spoke about this historic agreement on Tuesday evening in Havana.

The peace deal is not the end, but only the beginning

De la Calle declared that the war is over, and Marquez stressed that the peace deal is not the end, but only the beginning of an ongoing process of building stable and lasting peace.

And while Colombians are celebrating the unprecedented achievement of ending the longest war in the Americas, many are also pointing to the real challenges that lie ahead.

RELATED:   Peace at Last! FARC and Colombia Govt to Announce Final Deal

ELN

One of the issues that has not been part of the negotiations in Havana, but many, including the FARC, have frequently stressed as a key part of building peace is the question of ending hostilities between the government and the country’s smaller left-wing guerilla force, the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

Former ELN commander Carlos Velandia, alias Felipe Torres, applauded the announcement of the deal, heralding it as a “new era” that could give a “peaceful” push to “other conflicts” to follow a similar path.

The international community wants Latin America to be a zone of peace

“The war is coming to an end, because the Colombian nation has demanded it, because they’ve understood the parks of the conflict, because the international community wants Latin America to be a zone of peace,” Torres told Colombia’s El Espectador. “This is an achievement that benefits the country, nobody loses, everybody wins.”

The beginning of talks between the ELN and the government have stalled, though the rebel army has said it is open to beginning a process. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has offered to host the process, playing the role that Cuba played in the negotiations with the FARC since 2012.

The importance of a peace process with the ELN

Chief FARC peace negotiator Marquez also reiterated the importance of a peace process with the ELN while speaking in Havana Wednesday.

“We have that the ELN can find a way to approach (the process) so that the peace that we long for will be completed involving all Colombians,” he said.

Another outstanding question as the FARC and government unveil the historic agreement is what will happen to Simon Trinidad, a senior FARC leader jailed in a “supermax” prison in the United States.

IN DEPTH: Who is Simon Trinidad?

Unjust imprisonment of Simon Trinidad

Trinidad was extradited to the U.S. in 2004 on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering under the watch of former far-right President Alvaro Uribe, who opposes the new peace deal. Leaked cables have show his extradition request was concocted, as the U.S. did not have any pending charges against the high-ranking FARC leader. He is now serving a 60-year sentence in solitary confinement.

USA’s role in perpetuating the war

The FARC has long argued that freedom for Simon Trinidad is a cornerstone in securing peace and reintegrating demobilized rebels into society. Speaking on Wednesday, Marquez singled out the U.S. for its role in perpetuating the war and indicated that Trinidad is still on the movement’s agenda even though negotiations in Havana have ended.

“To the government of the United States, which for so long supported the state war against the guerilla and against social non-conformity, we ask that you continue backing in a transparent way the Colombian efforts to restore peace,” he said. “We await Simon Trinidad.”

Ahead of the much-anticipated announcement of the final deal, FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday, “I recall that the FARC designated Simon Trinidad as the coordinator of the process of laying down of arms.”

The 297-page final agreement makes no mention of Simon Trinidad.

The historic deal is set to be put to a vote on Oct. 2 to ratify the agreement with Colombian society by asking voters whether or not they accept the peace accords with the FARC.

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