Colombia: race to salvage peace process

After a near-breakdown in Colombia's peace process last month, Colombia's government is scrambling to revive the disarmament and demobilization of the FARC guerillas—under pressure from a citizen mobilization. The popular networks Marcha Patriótica and Congreso de los Pueblos joined on June 1 for a youth demonstration in support of the peace process, with some 600 holding vigil in downtown Bogotá. (El Espectador June 1; Contagio Radio, May 31) A new deadline of June 20 has now been set for FARC fighters to turn over all their weapons. UN monitors and the FARC say that 30% of the arms have now been handed over to the UN team overseeing the disarmament. (BBC News, June 8; El Espectador, May 30)

But there have been numerous reports of violence at the "transitional camps" established for the demobilization process. On May 31, an army captain was wounded in a brief clash that ensued when military troops entered the "Veredal Zone" jointly controlled by the FARC and UN team at Las Colinas, Guaviare department. (El Espectador, May 31) 

There are also cases in which demobilizing FARC fighters have been targeted for vigilante justice by presumed right-wing paramilitary forces. On June 2, a FARC fighter was found dead of two bullet wounds to his torso at vereda La Esmeralda, Puerto Rico municipality, Caquetá department. The ex-guerilla, named as Rulber Santana, had recently been pardoned and released from prison under the new "transitional justice" program. (Prensa Rural, June 2)

The process of restitution of usurped lands is another potential flashpoint. The National Lands Agency says it has established a National Lands Fund of 3 million hectares to redistribute to campesinos usurped of their lands during the armed conflict. (El Colombiano, May 30)

Another obstacle to peace are the FARC renegade factions that have refused to lay down arms. When President Juan Manuel Santos arrived at the vereda of Charras, San José del Guaviare, to inaugurate a new "crop substitution" program there, local campesinos complained that fighters of the FARC's renegade 1st Front had threaetened them with reprisals if they abandoned coca cultivation. (El Tiempo, May 31)