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Colombia: Five Years On From Peace, Where Are The Changes?

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

23 November 2021

Iván Márquez, the main negotiator for the FARC recently published a column to mark the five years since the signing of a peace deal with the FARC asking a series of questions about the progress made with the agreement and a number of dubious statements about it.

According to the former negotiator

Peace cannot be achieved through demagoguery but rather through real acts:  Where is the agrarian reform?  What happened to land ownership which is seen to be at the heart of the conflict?  Where is the granting of title deeds on land to the peasants, the restitution, where are the loans and technical assistance?
These are good questions, but not in the sense Márquez means.  We should put these same questions to him.

Where Is the Agrarian Reform?

It is a good question and Márquez should be asked, exactly where this expression appears in the text signed by the FARC?  Nowhere, the phrase Comprehensive Rural Reform is used, an imprecise expression which means nothing, it does not mean agrarian reform, but is useful in buttering up many people leading them to see in the agreement things which are not there.  You, Mr Márquez are a little late in criticising an agreement you yourself negotiated.  The agrarian reform does not appear and does not exist because you in the FARC betrayed your base and never reached an agreement on it with the government.

What Happened to Land Ownership?

It is another good question, although this time round the agreement does deal with it in part.  It is worth remembering what was negotiated on this issue.  The FARC came to an agreement with the state to share out three million hectares amongst the peasants.  This figure is a long way from what is required to solve the problem, bearing in mind that according to an Oxfam report the Colombian oligarchy has more than 45 million hectares on farms of over 500 hectares in its hands, i.e. 40 million more than it had when the FARC rose up in arms in 1964.   Even if the state had fulfilled its part of this part of the agreement, 42 million hectares would still be missing to solve the problem, which is structural and cannot be solved through market driven initiatives as proposed in the peace agreement.

It is worth pointing out that the agreement itself gives a timeframe of 12 years to meet the target of land distribution and of what is termed mass formalisation of land (deeds), an issue which will be dealt with now.

Where are the land deeds for peasants, where is the restitution, where are the loans and technical aid?

Once again, the agreement deals with these issues in part.  It is true that it proposes land deeds, i.e. to accept as legal the occupation by some peasants of about seven million hectares that they have in their control but for which they have no land deeds.  It is a noble aim, but I would ask Márquez, how did they propose to do this?  Please explain the clear mechanisms that you agreed to, or at least those that in between bottles of Havana Rum you thought you had agreed to.  It is not clear to me.  Point 1.1.5 of the agreement states that the government:

Will draw up plans for the mass formalisation and will bring forward the pertinent normative and operational reforms, guaranteeing the participation of the communities and their organisations.
It is very vague, not specific at all and it is in the government’s hands and as is clear from the text they have until 2028 to do it, though no one expects the government to meet its target, as the agreement itself contains no mechanisms to force them to fulfil what has been agreed.

Restitution is a simple issue, though in practice it has been very complicated.  Law 1448 of 2011 was passed a long time before the peace process began and at first, included a number of articles that the made land restitution difficult where there were palm crops or other agro-industrial projects.  In the midst of the peace process, Santos tried once again to limit restitution through Article 50 of his second National Development Plan which aimed to cancel or prohibit restitution where there were National Interest Projects (PINES).  In both cases it was the Constitutional Court and not you in the FARC and even less so you, Mr Márquez who put a hold on Santos.  So, where are the restitutions?  They are where you left them.  It is too late to complain about something that is not in the agreement you yourself negotiated and signed.

The Movement for Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) published a report on the courts’ decisions in the area of restitutions where there were mining projects involved.  You never read that report, as your arrogance does not allow you to read documents written by reformists, even when those reformists are more daring than the supposed “revolutionaries” such as yourselves, but the report found that of the 110 findings only in 14 cases was the cancellation of the mining contracts called for and in nine of those cases it was due to non-compliance with the mining and oil legislation and not the result of the application of Law 1448 of 2011.

The agreement itself reads like a pamphlet from an international aid agency, a UN agreement or something like that, nothing specific.  Point states:

The implementation of land restitution policies will follow, amongst other things, the technical criteria of the historic density of pillage and the conditions for returning, bearing in mind the recommendations, including those pertaining to the territorial focus that the victims’ organisations and experts have on the issue.  The territorial bodies should actively take part in the implementation of the restitution policy and contribute to the formulation of territorial development plans in the comprehensive support for the beneficiary population of the restitution processes, including investment in infrastructure and public services.
What does this mean?  Can someone explain in simple terms what this is?  All the references made to restitution are of a similar nature.  Tell us Mr Márquez, what are the specific measures that you negotiated that the government must fulfil?  Just point to one specific measure, something real and measurable.

Loans and Technical Aid

The history of Colombian agrarian programmes and agricultural policy is the story of Robin Hood in reverse, robbing the poor to give to the rich.  Many think of the theft by the Uribistas committed through the Guaranteed Agricultural Income programme, but in reality, in any sector of the countryside, those who always get more loans and subsidies are the large producers.  This was the case in the 1990s when disease wreaked havoc amongst the coffee producers, the large producers got more.  The subsidies for palm also go to the large producers, to name just two crops.  So Mr. Márquez what changes did you propose and reach agreement on to change this situation?

The agreement refers to loans for land purchases, a measure which cannot be seen as rural reform but rather as a reform of the banking and loans system.  Point 1.1.3 of the agreement deals with the issue of loans more broadly but in very general terms as is the case with all the points raised by Márquez.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace

Márquez laments the situation with the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) and states that “the jurisdiction is for all those implicated in the conflict and not just for one of the parts.”  One just doesn’t know what to say regarding this, is it the case that the FARC don’t remember what they agreed to?  The JEP is for just one of the parts of the conflict: the FARC.  Soldiers also go before it, but not the armed forces of the state as such.  Only those soldiers who go on their own initiative appear and those who accept the JEP are those who have already been convicted by the ordinary justice system, such as Rito Alejo, who not only has nothing to lose but in the worst case will receive an automatic reduction on his sentence.  There are also those soldiers against whom there exists damning proof and fear they may be tried through the ordinary justice system.  There are not two sides in the JEP and the business leaders, i.e. those who financed and promoted the paramilitary groups are excluded, though as with the military they may appear voluntarily as so called third parties, an expression which has no basis in Colombian law, as they are intellectual authors, financers, instigators, beneficiaries or simply accomplices.

To date 9,819 members of the FARC submitted to the authority of the JEP (the expression submitted is one used by the JEP itself) and 3,313 members of the so-called security forces.  At no stage are the supposed security forces judged as such, just some members of it and bearing in mind the number of troops it has, the 3,313 that appear before the JEP don’t represent even 1% of those who are actually part of the said institutions and not even 0.1% of all those who went through the ranks throughout the conflict.  Not only are there not two parts, there is not even one and a half parts.

So, the FARC, like many others, complain about what is not in the agreement and ask (they no longer demand) that a fictitious agreement that only exists in their heads and the minds of politicians, many NGOs and the press be implemented.  Sometimes, I ask myself whether I am the only one who read the agreement.  It is the case that sometimes it seems that neither the FARC nor the NGOs and less still the politicians that supported the process read it, as was shown by a public letter signed by many politicians in 2017.(2)

The ELN is circulating Márquez’s article, it is to be hoped that they do so for information purposes and not because they agree with or see some merit in Márquez`s whining because if they see in Márquez a reference point on how to negotiate with the state, they might as well come down out of the mountains now and try their luck.


(1) All figures are taken from Oxfam (2017) A Snapshot Of Inequality What The Latest Agricultural Census Reveals About Land Distribution In Colombia, Oxfam available at

(2) Ó Loingsigh, G. (2017) Implementing the Peace Accord: A Draft Bill

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