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In an interview with Camilo González Posso, president of the Institute for Development and Peace Studies, Indepaz, we will talk about the current situation of the Peace Accord in Colombia and the work that the new government will have to do in relation to it.

Pressenza: At the end of last month, you showed us in the comparative report between 2021 and 2022 what the figures were, where the increase in murders and massacres that have been carried out by the different armed sectors is evident. Given these facts, it is possible to affirm that the outgoing government did not offer the peasant population, the signatories of the agreement and the victims mechanisms that would allow them to safeguard their lives.

Camilo Gónzalez Posso: Well, unfortunately we have a situation that persists, the issue of massacres, murders and forced displacement is terrible, imagine the figure given to us by the United Nations and the Ombudsman’s Office, they speak of 75,000 displaced or confined people so far this year. Last year there were more than 10,000 people and in the last four years there have been nearly 400,000 displaced people, and to this we can add the persistence of massacres which shows the dispute over territories. We could say that the guarantees of human security in the territories, the fulfilment of the promise of the transition to peace, is a tremendous deficit at the end of this government. It has developed a policy of war rather than a policy of transition to peace.

Of the war policy implemented by the current government, it could be said that during the UN Security Council last month, an attempt was made to hide or disguise the figures on this issue, with the evasion or rejection of recurrent questions from some diplomats who asked about the Peace Agreement and what the government’s aim was in doing this.

There were reservations from several countries. Among them Russia, but also the United Kingdom and the United States asked quite incisive questions, and the Security Council has repeatedly warned about situations of attempts on life and the non-implementation of the Peace Accord. I would like to say that the basic fact, which is not so dramatic at first glance but very revealing, is the president’s statement that instead of implementing the Peace Accord, which he never mentions and which he did not mention by name, he is replacing a constitutional and legal policy with a party policy. He said “as our party won the elections what we implement is not the Peace Agreement, what we implement is what our political party programme says because it was voted in the elections”. This is a vision of party totalitarianism, but it also explains a lot because this party was against the Peace Accord and even speaks of peace with legality because it considers the Peace Accord not legal, it is illegitimate because it was supposedly against the result of the plebiscite, it ignores institutional developments.

That is why it is a government that has placed itself outside the constitution in many areas, but even the Constitutional Court has expressly stated that on humanitarian issues such as the issue of displacement, the murders of people in reincorporation and of social leaders. In Colombia there is a non-constitutional state of affairs and this must be extended. There is no functioning democratic regime in the country. This has been a government that has concentrated power in the executive branch and has a militarised regime. So, we have a replacement of democratic institutions with institutions of anti-democratic authoritarianism.

This is the reality and at the root of why the cycles of violence persist and why the transition to peace that was agreed and energised in the Peace Accord in 2016 is slowing down.

Following this line and taking stock of the outgoing government, could it be considered that any of the five points that were agreed in the Peace Accord were fulfilled, or on the contrary, is this a job that remains for the new government?

These are things that seem contradictory, but it should be noted first of all that the Peace Agreement is a political, constitutional fact in Colombia that has changed the situation of the country and therefore it is not the same after the negotiations that began in 2012 and then in the Peace Agreement in 2016, to the Colombia we knew in the last century that was marked by a situation of widespread war and atrocity.

There is a change not only in the indicator of death and violation of humanitarian law, but a change in the dynamics of society. That society stood up for peace. There is the emergence of social rights for youth, for women, for environmentalists, there is an ongoing democratic movement that is against war, and a growing isolation for those who proclaim war as a strategy to solve problems as they did for decades in Colombia. I believe that this is the fundamental impact, but it is also achieved through legislative and constitutional decisions, and with the initial impulse, important events such as the implementation of Transitional Justice, the reincorporation itself, and the creation of the FARC’s political party.

Look, there are important facts that indicate that despite the purpose of shattering the Peace Agreement, this government did not achieve it, it did not find enough atmosphere to reverse it in its entirety; however, it does hinder a great deal. They tried to overturn the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). The president had to be forced by a Constitutional Court mandate to sign it, the same happened with the Transitory Peace Jurisdictions for victims, the political reform was blocked, in other words, there were many obstacles to social and political reforms.

That’s why it’s a joke when it comes to agrarian issues. Thus, there were a number of documents that came from behind the scenes, supposedly about the extinguishment of ownership or land titles, but in terms of the actual handing over of land to the peasants, imagine that 3,000 hectares have been materially handed over, and there are some 200,000 hectares handed over in the regulation of indigenous reserves that come from behind, and they are also accounted for. However, the real policy was one of zero land for the peasants, not the application of the policy, which is a crucial problem.

This is a crucial problem. Now in rural areas, everything concerning drugs, the government says that we are still at war, partly because of international crime against the state. However, the state put an end to the policy of crop substitution, it froze it, because it left aside what was behind and replaced it with military policy, which led to total inefficiency and the reproduction of violence. Thus, Colombia exports 25 percent more cocaine today than when this government began, and even claims to have eradicated 300,000 hectares by force, but in reality, the net revision of hectares is less than 5 percent. Although it should be clarified that according to the US State Department the hectareage has increased, but the United Nations indicates that there has been a small decrease in the hectareage with an increase in productivity [increase in cocaine cultivation], in short, that what they proclaim as the objective of the policy of the war on drugs has been a complete failure.

This means that we have a Peace Agreement that has tried to be replaced, but which is still alive insofar as it is a constitutional mandate and above all because there is a mobilised society, a youth against the war, which we have seen in the last three years, millions of people mobilised for peace in Colombia. This shows that there is a revolution of conscience against the war for peace, the implementation of the Agreement, of not going backwards and the crises without the repetition of these circuits of depredation and violence. I believe that this is what is new in this atmosphere of contradiction and uncertainty, and it shows the dynamic of hope that exists in Colombia.

And precisely Camilo, I wanted to ask about this last point you were making, because the truth is that afterwards that plebiscite in which the No to the Peace Accord won, we were all stunned. Outside Colombia, it seemed implausible that a people would not want to put an end to an armed conflict. And we see just that, how this political polarisation in Colombian society is so great, now you are talking to us about the hope generated by the consolidation of the peace process that generates new vibrations. Do you think that there is a majority in Colombia that is committed to this, that there is a change that can begin to be perceived in these elections?

I believe that the change is in the arena of politics and social consciousness, that is where the great transformation is taking place in Colombian society and that it will mark this whole decade, regardless of what happens in the elections. We are in a moment of post-Peace Agreement crisis, it is different from the previous crisis, it is clearly part of a global crisis.

Look! Politically, we began this century in 2002 with a movement led by Álvaro Uribe Vélez who said “we must not go out to negotiate, the solution is war. Vote for me, I’ll wage war any way I can to win”. And he won the elections, in a desperate country, afterwards more than 50 years at war, and said well, let’s give our hand and more to an authoritarian saviour; even if it kills whatever it takes, but it’s desperation. That happened in 2002. Now we are seeing a political defeat. Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez has recognised his defeat, he says “they have expropriated my prestige, my dignity”. And what is the right wing, which is the Democratic Centre and is led by Álvaro Uribe, saying “let’s not allow the candidate or candidates we have to appear as our candidates, we must camouflage them. Let’s take away the Uribista touch and put a new wrapper on them so that they can pass as such”.

I am not lying, I am stating facts that are public knowledge. That means there is a change. At the same time, the right-wing candidate or candidates, in order to position their candidacy, say “I voted yes in the plebiscite”. In other words, he presents himself with the peace card; on the other hand, Duque called for the union to vote no on the same issue, which implies that there was a change there.

On the other hand, we see that there are sectors of the left, centre and centre-right that say that the peace project must be defended. Moreover, Colombia must commit itself to leaving the war behind; this is not just a left-wing issue. If one looks at the polls in relation to peace or voting intentions for this year’s presidential elections, they show that various sectors will vote for Gustavo Petro, the left-wing candidate, with different weights, for example the middle class. Moreover, the problem is not what to do with the war of the past, but what to do with the crisis of the present and the lack of prospects for the future.

In this sense, people are not saying, yes, let’s settle accounts, there is a look and a purpose for the truth, but to look at the crisis, because we are at a crossroads in Colombia that is added to the economic and all the problems of the persistence of wars, drug trafficking, mafias, and the mafia regime, since what is in power is an alliance of great economic powers with great mafia powers. This is an academic and non-political characterisation of the collusion of macro-criminality that has co-opted political power in Colombia, and of course it does not mean that all political space belongs to drug traffickers or the FARC.

However, it can be affirmed that there is a very large political-mafioso power that is weakening and there is a very large current that says “let’s close the page. This cannot continue to be the country of Pablo Escobar or his heirs”, because this is the image we have in the world. In reality, people are wrong, because Pablo Escobar is a graffiti on the wall compared to what we have now. When Pablo Escobar was around, Colombia had 300,000 hectares planted with coca and exported more or less 400,000 metric tons of coca. Now it has 200,000 hectares and exports about 1,200 metric tons of metric tons a year, that is to say, around here there are a few Pablitos who are embedded in society and in the regime, persistent in a country.

Here we have a kleptocracy in power, they steal even a hole, it’s incredible the capacity for theft, and the budget is the booty, public procurement, the macro-investments of the state, which the state itself uses for money laundering.

Listening to you, I have no choice but to ask you, in this scenario, what does it take for a government to arrive and really want to move forward and change, what margin of action does it have, what possibilities does it have?

I don’t believe that the transition will be completed in four years, that Colombia will be solved and that it will be a country with all these problems, but it can improve a lot. Here we have had moments when, on the edge of the abyss, there have been alliances that have allowed positive steps to be taken, it is possible, for example if one reads the political combination that exists in Congress, let us say that for the left and the centre, it is possible to make agreements with the centre right on some points and have a majority. The issue of life, peace management, non-violence and the promotion of certain agreements on drug trafficking. We have to put an end to the drug war, that doesn’t work. This was raised by the Obama administration and in the formal speeches of the Biden administration there was a rectification of the drug war policy, to establish a much more social policy, that is to say, a change of direction and in some regions such as Cauca, where there is a very big problem, such as the Cauca region, where there is a very big problem such as marijuana, an agreement could be made in Congress and a regulation could be removed so that we leave prohibitionism on the issue of marijuana and open our hands to 400 families associated with the cultivation of marijuana and the marijuana chain, so that cannabis flowers could be explored and sales could be expanded so that they could be used in medicinal products. In this way, the issue of cannabis and marijuana can have a way out.

Therefore, an agreement has to be made, because there are 400,000 families, more or less we counted at the time, who registered individually and collectively in the government offices to enter the programmes for the substitution of illicit crops, with their identity card, address and where they were planting. However, the government said “we are going to throw lead at them because this is a war against the peasants”.

And the peasants, the most legalistic ones, were surprised by the government with a war. Instead of that, a deal could be made with the people, there has even been talk of a Marshall Plan and even in the middle of the pandemic, economic issues can be made.

So, a centre-left government, as it is possible to have, will not make a revolution. Here we are not in anti-capitalism, we are in a revolution of the mind that allows us to establish the rules of the game of at least welfare, of these basic things, and rules of the game to solve the issues without killing us, because in this country the death penalty has been officially decreed, they say that it is enough to declare an organised armed group, so that they can kill all their leaders, those who accompany them, even their mothers. And the same with an opposing group, they declare anyone as the enemy and kill them. We have to overcome that and look at more relevant things such as the issue of climate change, poverty, since 70 percent of the Colombian population lives in extreme poverty or in extreme vulnerability and can fall into this. So, we have to do things there, the Congress can make a pact for transformation and peace in Colombia.

We are very grateful to Camilo Gónzalez Posso, president of Indepaz for joining us today.