FARC demobilization back on after court ruling

Colombia's Constitutional Court on Dec. 13 approved the government's plan for "fast track" authority to expedite congressional approval of terms for a peace deal with the FARC rebels. The 8-1 ruling is a victory for President Juan Manuel Santos, who argued that the deal could collapse if delayed by debates during the traditional legislative process. The "fast track" process eliminates certain legislative sessions and limits changes lawmakers can make to the package. (Jurist, Dec. 14) On the eve of the ruling, Santos said that the rejection of the original peace pact in a national plebiscite was a "blessing in disguise," as it gave both sides the impetus to return to the table and negotiate a "better accord." (El Tiempo, Dec. 12)

The ruling clears the way for the demobilization of the FARC's guerilla fighters, and the group's transformation into a legal political party. In an unprecedented move the day after the court ruling, members of the FARC's Secretariat held a meeting in the library of the Congress building with lawmakers and social leaders to discuss the political transition. (El Heraldo, Barranquilla, Dec. 15) That same day, the National Electoral Council officially recognized the new Voices of Peace and Reconciliation party, to serve as the vehicle for the FARC's entry into civic political life. The new party emerges from social leaders and is not actually the FARC's political arm. (El Tiempo, Dec. 15)

Santos and his predecessor Alvaro Uribe, now leading the opposition to the peace process, held a private meeting together with Pope Francis at the Vatican Dec. 16. The 25-minute meeting in the pontiff's private office failed to bring about a reconciliation between the former allies now turned political enemies. "You cannot impose everything, your Holiness," Uribe is reported to have told the Pope, saying the government needs to "loosen up" the implementation of the deal. Speaking to the press after the meeting, Uribe said that the current deal would grant "total impunity" to the FARC. (Colombia Reports, France24, Dec. 16)