Almost one year later, are the Havana Accords a success for Colombia?
On December 1, 2016, the Colombian government officially ratified an agreement with FARC guerrillas to cease hostilities and disarm. The guerrillas were to receive cash, incentives, pardons for their decades of crimes, protection from lawsuits, guaranteed seats in the country’s congress and the ability to form their own political party.
One year later, the Colombian government’s official position is that they are satisfied with the results of the accords. The FARC have allegedly surrendered their arms, and are in the process of being reincorporated into society.
However reintegration for members of the former guerrilla group has already shown signs of discord. Guerrillas who have surrendered their arms have watched as former colleagues who refused to surrender have fortified their positions and increased coca production. Furthermore, with the honed skills of a lifetime fighting a guerrilla war, many former FARC fighters are finding it easier to gather and rise again in criminal organizations than start new businesses.
However Joshua Mitrotti, National Director for the Normalization and Reincorporation Agency charged with handling the reintegration, defended the process and cautioned against those who expected instant results from the accords.
“The reincorporation is not a 40-day project. It will take about 10 years to see all short, medium and long-term effects… The reincorporation is the biggest bet the Colombian state has ever made. We must ensure that this is the chance to put violence aside to build a better country”, he said.
Mittroti insisted that the FARC have complied with their part of the agreement and that the government now has to work “to end violence and exclusion”.
The FARC, for their part, have been sharply critical of the government’s progress in implementing the terms of the accords. Marco Calarcá, now a member of the FARC political party, stated that the government is looking for excuses to avoid complying with their agreements.
However according to statistics provided by the Congress of the Republic, 11,455 guerrilla members have already been provided with a bank account, with more than half of those are now receiving at least 90% of the minimum wage each month. The JEP, the organization charged with issuing pardons and adjudicating crimes committed during the conflict, has already granted amnesty to more than 700 FARC criminals, including many who were previously tried and convicted and were incarcerated. The pardoned criminals have walked free.
Calarcá’s principal complaint are the inconsistencies with the registration process, a compulsory requirement for former FARC members have been experienced, in order to receive the benefits promised by the government. Calarcá said that the process was slow and difficult, and that some guerrillas were reluctant to enter the process. Those who do not register will not receive an identification number, preventing them from claiming their benefits.
One problem hindering the accords are the lack of popular support. The accords were put to a nationwide referendum in October 2016, where they were rejected by the Colombian people. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, despite previously promising to abide by the results of any referendum, instead chose to ignore it and implement the accords without popular support. The accords have now become a political football and one of the principal platform issues in the forthcoming 2018 Colombian presidential election.