Valentina Orejarena, one of this year's Blogger Fellows and a Colombian citizen, teaches us about the ongoing political conflict in Colombia, and its social implications.
Colombia has struggled with poverty and violence for years because of its great divide in social classes. As a result of these socioeconomic injustices, left-wing rebel groups began to form, like the Farc and ELN (National Liberation Army), in 1964. The groups’ goal was to overthrow the government. They supported themselves financially through drug trafficking and kidnapping, while controlling usually weak states. The people caught between the mess often get abused or even murdered, by these groups. Many Colombians have been displaced because these radical groups force people off their land and homes so that they can reside there themselves. President Alvaro Uribe decreased the number of active rebel groups in Colombia by fighting them with brute force. Later in 2010, Juan Manuel Santos came into office and continued to the fight for peace but this time with a more diplomatic approach. As the number of the members went down in the left-wing groups, in November 2012, the Farc was finally open to peace resolutions with the government. They focused on land reform, political voice, disarmament of the rebels, drug trafficking, rights of the victims, and implementation of the peace deal. Both parties want this peace desperately but the distrust between them seems to slow down the process. In 2016, after about four years of formal, and two years of secretive, negotiations for compromises, President Santos revealed an agreement that was signed by both parties in Cartagena, Colombian. President Santos told Colombian citizens they had a say in the agreement and conducted a vote. 50.2% of the voters did not want the agreement to be put into effect because they deemed it “too soft on the rebels”. The rejected deal led Santos to continue to work on a final and official agreement and enforced harsher punishments for those who deserve it.
What can happen now?
As a Colombian citizen myself, I understand that it is difficult to forgive these left-wing groups for the atrocities committed throughout the 52-year conflict but it is now 2017 and peace is looking more promising than it ever has. The UN has now gotten involved to make sure both sides comply and are able to properly reintegrate the former members of the Farc into Colombia’s political, economic, and social society. The Farc took one of the most ground-breaking steps and agreed to give up their weapons to move forward with the peace in Colombia. This peace agreement could be the best thing to happen to the country in decades, with the potential now open to advance it politically, environmentally, and economically. Once this conflict comes to and end, Colombia can start building homes for the poor, build simple solar panels, improve clean water systems, and improve the slums. Displaced peoples can return to the homes that were once taken from them. Businesses will be booming and the economy will recover. The United States has been a huge ally to Colombia during this peace process and could help with funding to create jobs that could rebuild people’s lives. Former Farc members can have the opportunity to clear their consciences and build new lives for themselves in this new society. Now that the Farc will have a say in the government, they can finally stand up for the underdogs in Colombia that always wished for a new system that would bring prosperity to the lives of the poor. The people will soon be able to live in peace and seek a greater advancement in life because they will no longer afraid to step out of their houses. Education can greatly improve with the amount of people that will be motivated to prosper and continue to improve Colombia for the better. I personally haven’t been this excited and happy for my country in years. Many countries can be motivated and realize that anything is possible and with the help of diplomacy the world has a chance to realize that happiness and peace.