Colombian Government Reaches Deal with Rebel Group

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Santos reaches agreement with rebel group

 

After nearly half a century of warring, Colombia’s government has finally reached an agreement with the country’s largest rebel group, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The people of Colombia still need to cast their vote on the agreement until it can take effect. The deal comes after four years of negotiations.

More than 200.000 people died as a result of the political bloodshed, and over 5 million had to leave their homes.

Since the cease-fire declaration, violence levels have fallen dramatically. They are at their lowest rate since FARC started its reign of terror, 52 years ago.

FARC has had a long and complicated history in Colombia. It was established in 1964. Their initial goal was to change Colombian policies, so that they focused on the needs of the rural communities in the country.

The full text of the agreement is not available to the public yet. So far we only know that the Colombian government has promised to pursue land reforms, change its anti-narcotics policy. They will also expand the reach of the state into areas that have been neglected in the past.

According to polls, most Colombians hate FARC. They despise them for their involvement in the cocaine trade.

FARC, on the other hand, accuses the Colombian government of being an oligarchic economic and political establishment. They argue that Colombian authorities bow down to US interests.

The rebels have been engaged in a bitter war with the Colombian government. With the help of the US military, the size of the rebel army was halved, to 7.000 soldiers. These losses forced FARC to begin negotiations in 2012.

All and all, it seems Juan Manuel Santos, who spearheaded the negotiations, was focusing strictly on ending the violence. The deal itself clearly leans in favor of the former rebel group.

Rebel Group Comes Out on Top

Not only are the former rebels not going to see prison time if they confess to their crimes. Some members of the rebel group are actually going to have a say in Colombian politics.

They will not have the right to vote on issues, but they will be able to state their opinion. The government will guarantee their spots in Congress  for a period of two years. Only after that will they have to go through the normal channels of obtaining a seat in Congress, through popular vote.

However, one of the biggest victories Santos obtained in this negotiation is FARC’s promise to end the narcotics trade. Cocaine had been at the heart of the FARC’s financial success all throughout these years.

Needless to say, Santos faced harsh criticism for some of his concessions. The conservatives, his former political allies labelled him a traitor .

His opponents, and some human rights organizations have criticized him for his lenient punishment of former guerrilla troop members.

Experts are now somewhat concerned about the effects of this agreements. Specifically they are worried about what will happen to the Colombian drug trade once these former rebels will integrate into society.

They speculate that well-organized criminal gangs might step in to pick the slack. They might come to fill the gap left over by FARC. A new wave of violence might start, as these gangs will fight among each other to gain control over the narcotics trade.

It’s a bittersweet victory for the Colombian government. While officials are still discussing the details of the deal, the effects of this agreement on the future of the state of Colombia are still unknown.

Image Source: Wikimedia

 

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