Opinion: No justice, no peace

Colombian President Iván Duque at a memorial service for victims of a car bombing in Bogotá last month. Photo by Efraín Herrera: Presidencia

Six months into his administration, President Iván Duque has neither destroyed the peace agreement nor has he been keen to implement its main tenets. His ambivalence on peace, though, is about to change with the impending decisions on the JEP and the appointment of a terrible candidate to head the National Commission on Historic Memory. What will peace look like under Duque?

President Iván Duque has a confusing relationship with the peace agreement that was signed by his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos with the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group. During Duque’s tenure as Senator, he constantly berated the agreement as a State capitulation to terrorism and a deal tantamount to impunity for the worst kind of human rights violations. His election in May 2018 was largely credited to his opposition to the peace agreement. This gravely concerned those who, like me, believe that an imperfect peace is better than a continued conflict.

Bogotá Post columnist Sergio Guzmán

As president, however, Duque has not completely opposed the peace agreement. In fact, he has reportedly recognized that the peace agreement abides by the parameters laid out by the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court and that he would continue to support the reintegration of ex-combatants. This is cause for optimism to those who believe the international community will nudge Duque to make greater strides to peace.

On the other hand, Duque has not made any commitment to make good on the government’s word to implement the peace agreement. There are serious setbacks in several points of the implementation. Most concerning are Duque’s lackluster support for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) the transitional justice agreement contained in the peace agreement; his appointment of Darío Acevedo as the Director of the National Center for Historic Memory; and his decision not to set aside funds for the implementation of the peace agreement in the national development plan. That leaves many wondering, what’s at stake for the future of peace under Duque?

To JEP or not to JEP

Simply put, the transitional justice component of the peace agreement is the backbone of the carefully etched document between the government and the FARC. As all peace agreements, it carefully crafted a fine balance that satisfied the government’s obligation to meet minimum standards for justice under an international framework and provided light sentences for the parties in conflict in exchange for a commitment to submit to an integrated system of truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition.

This was a central component of the 300-plus page of the peace agreement, which was ridden with legalese, and became the starting point of a discussion in Congress. During the deliberations of the legislative body, chaired by Rodrigo Lara of Cambio Radical, the mandatory nature for third parties and private sector companies to make part of the JEP proceedings was instead made voluntary, weakening the efforts to provide holistic justice. Nevertheless, Congress narrowly passed the framework to greenlight the JEP which was later sent for review to the Constitutional Court. The Court made suggestions to modify the agreement but ultimately gave its endorsement. So far, so good. Ordinarily, Congress would incorporate the changes from the Constitutional Court and submit them for the President to sign. However, both Congress and the President changed.

The ruling Centro Demcrático party’s disdain for the JEP has been plain as day since the inauguration of President Duque. However, their disregard for the due legislative process became evident last week, when it was discovered that Senate President Ernesto Macías made alterations to the text sent from the court and then blamed the errors on his printer. Yeah right! Macías begrudgingly fixed his mistakes and submitted for the president’s signature. Now the president’s supporters are urging him not to object the JEP statute on political grounds – an unprecedented move.  Not surprisingly, this has not been well received by some in the Liberal Party who were major proponents of the peace deal.

Juan Fernando Osorio: “Incredible. The debate these days on the JEP Law is raised by its opponents as if the law had not already been approved by Congress and thoroughly reviewed by the Constitutional Court. And they forget a little detail: the JEP is in the constitution. What a turnaround!”

Historic Memory

They say the third time is the charm, but the third candidate that was put forward by Duque to head up the National Center for Historic Memory (CNMH), Darío Acevedo, is a really bad choice. Acevedo is tasked with heading up an institution that is supposed to reconstruct piecemeal the history of the conflict of Colombia, that is supposed to drive a pedagogical process to educate the public on the complex history of the conflict, and that is supposed to publish the first draft of the official version of history.

Well, it turns out that Acevedo does not believe that the country was engaged in an internal conflict. According to him, the country was under a series of attacks perpetrated by terrorist and criminal groups. Sure, Acevedo is not alone in thinking this and as a private citizen he can think whatever he wants, but as the head of the institution that is supposed to write the first draft of history, there are many questions about how that will go!

Laura Gil: “One has every right to believe that the Earth is flat. But shouldn’t disqualify you from leading NASA? Well, same reasoning with Acevedo.”

Future of peace?

What can we expect from a government that has not made significant efforts to implement the peace agreement?

First off, the government is not likely to convince current factions waging war against it, namely the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, that it is intent on finding a negotiated outcome. Last month’s events greatly diminished the chances of there being a negotiation during this administration with that group. The attacks by the ELN against infrastructure targets and its proximity to the regime of Nicolás Maduro add a volatile element to the tense relationship that Colombia has with Venezuela.

Secondly, the government’s refusal to honor the chapter in the peace agreement aimed to promote an integral rural reform will make matters worse for social leaders, rights-based organizations and minorities in rural areas, as I explained in a previous column. It is a clear signal that this government will not address one of the central drivers of conflict in Colombia, which revolves around land ownership and concentration as well as a history of forced displacement and dispossession.


Lastly, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that the Duque Administration refuses to honor commitments made by its predecessor – which implies a gigantic moral hazard on behalf of the Colombian state going forward. If the Duque government does not recognize what the Santos Administration signed, what is to stop a successor government doing the same? The government is signaling ignorance of diplomatic protocol, judicial precedent, and – most importantly – its own constitution which, in article 22, states peace is a right and a duty.  Compliance with it is mandatory.

Sergio Guzmán is the Director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a political risk consulting firm based in Bogotá. Follow him on twitter @serguzes and @ColombiaRisk

This opinion column is intended as a space to discuss some of the most pressing issues faced by Colombia and the region in these uncertain times. All opinions and content are solely the opinion of the author and do not represent the viewpoints of The Bogotá Post.

3 COMMENTS

  1. It is a good analysis. UN standards state that there needs to be justice for all peace-building processes, including transitional justice mechanisms.

    • Thanks Hernando, I agree that UN standards state that. However it appears that peace is a political obstacle for this government.

      • I’m a currently an American author on modern day asymmetrical warfare (like mainly, what Putin has used by studying what we stopped using so much in the Cold War)—-i.e hence why the Marxists death squads, which even some Americans believe was a result of OUR intervention, happened long before they started, and when our US Special Forrces (Green Berets) came in groups of one, two, or three man teams, it showed we wanted to help keep reg working folks safe, rebuild FARC and any Marxist/Communist Soviet affiliated death squads/proxies (same ones from the Putin’s personal “Blackwater” called Wagner Group who are ex Spetznas thugs and Chechen ex jihadists on his payroll–my friends saw hundreds in Syria so Putin could attack ANY AMERICAN OUTPOST, CLAIM DENIABILITY, AS THEY WERE W/ASSAD’S SAA (ARMY) but we RUINED their dumb a$$es from the air (just 12 Special Forces guys, a few hundred Kurds just out of training held of dozens of tanks, and were outnumbered men-wise 50 to 1, until our aircraft arrived and wiped them out).
        We had never killed Russian combatants in a field of war probably EVER in such a regard in history since both countries have existed…HOWEVER, unlike our slightly overzealous Blackwater PR stories that sometimes aren’t entirely as “evil/violent” sounding as they seem (i’ve met many as a contractor for priv sec firm–not A PMC like they or Wagner who are offensively operating—we were keeping mayors in Baja etc safe from Los Zetas etc. It was a “plato e plomo” (did I say that right?) deal there too, and we guarded those who couldn’t be corrupted. NOW HERE’S MY POINT: SINCE WE TRAINED MANY OF COLOMBIA’S FINEST, AND SINCE WE KNEW IN GUATEMALA IN THOSE EARLY DAYS THAT MARXIST REBELS WERE THE ACTUAL DEATH SQUADS AND THE “WHITE MEN IN US ARMY LOOKING OUTFITS” TURNED OUT TO BE RUSS ADVISORS THAT CAME IN THE HUNDREDS (THAT EVEN ADMITTED DOING THIS AND LETTING THE U.S SF COMMUITY THINK WE DID IT FOR YEARS THRU THE STATE RUN PROPAGANDA)…NOW??? THE MADURO/PUTIN/CUBAN CTE W/SEBIN ELEMENT IN CARACAS (W/THEIR “FAEU” POLICE ASSASSINS) ARE, TO US??? OTHER ICs?? (indepedent contractors in security not hired as killers, but as just armed escort like secret service but w/out all the US Dept of Def behind us as much as Blackwater etc).
        AGAIN: LETTING ME REALLY REALLY REITERATE THAT: CUBA’S LONG TIME PROXY ELEMENTS (EVEN E.L.N FMR COMMANDERS THEY PAY TO GO BACK AND BOMB MARKETS, WE’LL READ YEARS AGO) WHILE AUC ARE NOT DOING NEW TACTICS, THE MORE COMMUNIST/MARXIST GROUPS ARE USING ONES THEY ONLY COULD LEARN FROM RUSSIA? CUBAN-INFLUENCED BOLIVAR RADICALSITS & THEIR OWN SMALL MILITIAS, AND EVEN IRANIAN HEZBOLLAH HAVE TAKEN ROOT IN CARACAS (I SAW THEM AS FAR UP NORTH AS BAJA BY CALIFORNIA AT ONE POINT HELPING SHOW THE ZETAS HOW TO DO BEHEADINGS WHEN THEY STARTED THAT).
        POINT IS: COLOMBIA HAS EVERY RIGHT NOT TO JOIN THIS FIGHT…WE MAY NOT DECIDE TO INTERVENE IF WE TRULY CONSPIRED ALL THIS?? (FIRST OFF, WE DIDN’T FOR OIL ETC CUZ WHY WOULD WE? WE HAD AN EASIER TIME TO TAKE OIL ENOUGH FOR A DECADE IN LIBYA AND SYRIA BUT DIDN’T…WE DID, HOWEVER, WANT TO BE A FAIRLY TREATED LARGE CUSTOMER TO CARACAS OIL COMPANIES UNTIL THEY WERE BEHOLDEN/IN ETERNAL DEBT TO THE NEWER RUSSIAN INTEL ORGS) .
        HOWEVER, THEY WON’T STOP WITH YOU. IF WE HIT THEM ALONE? THEY MAY HIT YOU TO BAIT YOU IN, AND THEN IT’S YOUR CHOICE.
        PS….NOW THIS MUCH, OUTSIDE OF BRAZIL AND FEW OTHERS, COLOMBIA IS THE O-N-L-Y NATION (AND ESPECIALLY IT’S SPECIAL OPERAIOTNS UNITS) OUR MEN HAVE DIED ALONGSIDE FOR DECADES AS BROTHERS AND TRAINED AS OFTEN WITH AS WE COULD…

        THERE IS NOTHING MORE INSIDIOUS THAN THE SCENE IN UKRAINE THAT PUTIN GOT HALF THE BRAINLESS, KNUCKLE DRAGGING APES OF THE E. BALTICS/EU’S LEFT WING HARDLINERS/AND AMERICAN ANTI TRUMPERS (I’M NOT FOR ONE SIDE; LEFT OR RIGHT…I’M APOLITICAL AS A FMR CONTRACTOR TURNED OTHER ON THAT VERY TYPE OF WARFARE HE USED PUTIN USED ON CRIMEA/UKRAINE/ETC AND ESPECIALLY IN GEORGIA IN 2008 WHERE TO THIS VERY DAY, HE HAS SOOOOO MANY NOW BELIEVING THIS TINY NATION WHO DIDN’T LIKE PUTIN PERSONALLY, WOULD SUDDENLY DO A 9/11 W/ARTILLERY ON THEM JUST SO THEY COULD STEAL S.OSSETIA AND ABKHAZIA WHICH IS WHY YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WE NOW DO STAND W/COLOMBIA/BRAZIL/GUYANA AND…TO EVEN BE MORE 10000000% CLEAR, THEY SAY AND WILL DEF PROBABLY HAVE FRIENDS OF MINE IN THERE SOON (OR MAYBE ALREADY BY MARACAIBO ETC) AND THEY KNOW YOUR COLOMBIAN AFEUR ETC ARE THE BEST….JUNGLARS AND GAULA ARE TOO…AND WHAT YOU KNOW AS OUR US SPECIAL FORCES-DELTA, DEVGRU (SEAL TEAM 6), AND ESPECIALLY, YOU KNOW WE ARE IN COLOMBIA BY YOUR SIDE TO THE VERY END WHEN OUR “OTHER TIER 1 –MOST TOP HIGH END NINJA-LIKE HOLLYWOOD-ESQUE TYPES OF 20 YR EXP’D WARRIORS–WHO APPEAR TO BE COLOBIAN/LATIN AMERICAN/ETC AND DISAPPEAR INTO THE BACKGROUND IN HOURS INSIDE OF 3-4 MAN UNITS–ALL THE UNKNOWN FMR SOF TYPES–IN SPECIAL AGENCY GROUND BRANCH UNITS (OR MOSTLY EVEN JUST THE LANGLEY INTEL FOLKS’ HIRED SHOOTERS WHO ARE NOT THE KILLERS THE NY TIMES CLAIMS WHO RUN W/THOSE GROUND BRANCH–OR NOW I THINK ARE CALLED THE NO-LONGER “SOG” BUT SPECIAL ACTIVITY CENTER/SERVICES OR S.A.T.C/S.A.S–NOT UK SAS OBVIOUSLY–/AND ALSO THEY WILL HAVE FRIENDS IN D.A.S TACTOCAL UNITS TO ASSIST AS WELL IN SEBIN (VENEZ’S) TO DISMANTLE IT FROM THE INSIDE.
        PLEASE DON’T MAKE THHE MISTAKE WE DID (OR THEY DID TOO) IN UKRAINE WHERE UKRAINE AND WE DIDN’T ACT FAST ENOUGH AS RUSSIAN UNIFORMED SOLDIERS CAME AFTER THE “LITTLE GREEN” SHOWED UP ONE NIGHT ROUNDING UP WHOLE TOWNS BUT NOT LETTING A REPORT ESCAPE AND SUCH ACTS WERE TOLD TO CHAVEZ/MADURO/ALL OF CUBA TOO THAT ANY FORMS OF DISSENT–EVEN IF PEOPLE GO TO MALLS IN CARACAS & THE FOOD U SEE IN SHELVES WHICH I FAR FROM EATABLE AND OVERPRICED–WHILE THE ANSWER WILL ALWAYS, ALWAYS BE IT’S THE US…IT’S OUR SACTIONS THAT CHAVEZ FORCED US TO PLACE ON HIM UNTIL MADURO SHOWED UP AND THEN WE BROUGHT IT BACK TO NOT TARGET THE POPULATION…TURNING YOU CIVLIANS AGAINST HIM WAS ALL THE MAKNG OF MAYBE ONE OR TWO U.S ELEMENTS/ORGS BUT ALMOST 99.9% ORGANIC MILLINOS LEFT!

        COLOMBIA AND BRAZIL ARE TOUGH ASS COUNTRIES….JUNGLA AND AFEUR COUNTER TERROR UNITS ARE LEGENDARY HERE AND WE’LL BE THERE WHEN THEY SEE THAT THEY SHOULDN’T TRY THAT KINDA CRAP AGAIN NEAR THE PASSINGS WHEN TRUE AID WAS ON THE WAY (THE STUFF–I.E EXPLOSIVES–WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN HIDDEN IN FOOD….THAT’S A RUSS TRICK AS USUAL, OR “FALSE FLAG OPERATION” LIKE INVADING CRIMEA OR GEORGIA AS WE HAD ONCE IN IRAQ FOR REASONS NOT EVEN REMOTELY WHAT WE THOUGHT…YES, WE DID FIND WMDS (JUST IT WAS THE MUSTARD GAS BARRELS USED ON IRAQI KURDISTAN/ALL KURDS BY TENS OF THOUSANDS…. LOOK IT UP)
        SORRY TO TAKE UP SPACE IN CAPS, BUT I HOPE AS A FMR SECURITY CONSULTANT/CONTRACTOR AND KNOWING THAT MY FRIENDS NEVER STOPPED TELLING ME WHAT WAR WAS TRULY LIKE THE HELL IT IS….THE QUESTION YOU ASK YOURSELF IS: WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT?? WHATEVER IT IS, IN W/US OR OUT…WE UNDERSTAND. IF IT WAS OIL, AND TWENTY YRS OF PURE TERRORS OF WAR IN AF/PAK, LIBYA, CENTRAL AFRICA, EAST AFRICA, AND SYRIA? LAST THING WE WANT IS TO INVADE FOR OIL THAT WE HAD PLENTY OF CHANCES TO STEAL….SAME W/THAT GOLD PEOPLE ARE MISSING…FUNNY HOW PUTIN’S WANGER GROUP PMCSs (air branch of the mercenaries’ unit) ARE LEAVING W/IT CLAIMING IT WAS US!!!
        —JUST SAYING THIS IS NOT IRAQ, WE DON’T LEAVE YOU (OUR TWICE-AS-COURAGEOUS-KURD-LIKE BROTHERLY COMMANDO UNITS AND MILITARY TO FIGHT ALONE).
        -DR, AND THE REST OF WHAT IN 2005 MEXICO/BAJA WAS KNOWN AS RATTLR (UNTER TITANGROUP/L-3), RATTLR= MENAT — Rapidly Asymmetrical Training and Tactical Lead Response Teams (that was our designation and were only 48 to 56x strong as a small private security detail but we fought hunreds of not just Zetas and Caracas based ex-41 Brigade loons, BUT AS LITLE AS MOST BELIEVE ANYONE ON THIS, THE IRANIAN HEZBOLLAH WERE THOSE WHO SHOWED HOW TO BEHEAD FIRST IN THE TRI BORDER REGION, THEN HONDURAS, THEN ACAPULCO AND BY 2005 WHEN I HAD FRIENDS BACK FROM THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMUNITY, THEY KNEW THEY HAD FRIENDS LIKE ME (WHO SPOKE NEAR FLUENT SLIGHTLY VARYING DIALECTS OF SPANISH AND THEN WAS CERTIFIED TO BE OPERATING ALONGSIDE BY ALL FORMER FBY HRT INSTRUCTORS—MOST ARE ALWAYS FMR DELTA FORCE/MARINE RECON (NOW MOSTLY FILLED W/MAROC, NOT UNLIKE COMANF OR GAULA)…

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