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Colombia: Peace, Reconciliation and the March Elections

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

01 March 2022

Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro.

Several candidates from the Historic Pact have announced in their electoral publicity that the 13th of March will be the day that peace and reconciliation begin in Colombia.  It is an electoral slogan, so it is lacking in details about how they think they will manage this.  However, it is not new, it is an old slogan from the usual suspects.

Various members of the Historic Pact have repeatedly announced peace.  Petro and his people announced it when M-19 demobilised and the 1991 Constitution was passed.  After that they continued to announce it against all the evidence.  In 1996, following the Billiards Hall massacre in Segovia I clearly recall Vera Grabe saying the same thing to the Spanish press, when she held the Human Rights Portfolio in the Colombian Embassy, that it was a democracy and that the Samper government defended human rights.  Peace never came.

The Socialist Renovation Current said something similar and Leon Valencia still believes that the country is a democracy, though he doesn’t announce peace as frequently nowadays.  But like many he saw in the peace process with the FARC a great opportunity and like Senator Iván Cepeda announced the arrival of peace and reconciliation as the result of that process.  In that vein, they justified their support for the oligarch and man behind the False Positives, Juan Manuel Santos, in the 2014 presidential elections.  But peace never came.

The murders of ex-members of the FARC, which was totally foreseeable, something I warned about from the beginning, and the massacres of social leaders never ceased during the peace process.  The Santos government they supported can only boast that it killed fewer people than Duque, but in no terms can they say they have clean hands, it just isn’t true.

Now the same salespeople of a paradise, as illusory as that sold by evangelical Christians have passed by our houses again with their message of the coming times and salvation: peace comes on March 13th.  So far, they have got it right as much as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ predicting the end of the world.  Peace and reconciliation will not come on March 13th regardless of how many votes they get.  Peace won’t come and reconciliation shouldn’t, ever!

First of all, at the time of writing, it remains to be seen how many votes they get on March 13th and how many seats.  If they don’t obtain a majority, their plans will face greater obstacles.  However, even if they win a majority in Congress, it doesn’t mean much.  The Historic Pact is not a programmatic pact.  No one in that pact can tell us with any great precision what they are thinking of doing with the country.  It is a pact around the idea that there has to be a change of leadership in the country and that it can be administered better.  It is pact around management, not around a programme.

There are various forces within the pact, some of whom identify as left wing and others who do not, and have never said they are left-wing, such as the businesspeople who support Petro or Saade’s evangelicals.  There are also elements of the Liberal Party, the oligarch’s party that bears greatest responsibility for the foundation and fomenting of the paramilitaries.  Given the fights between those sectors, we can rest assured that peace will not be their first goal.

This confluence of right-wing, left reformist and extreme right-wing currents tells us everything we need to know about the reconciliation that is being preached.  It is nothing more than submission in the name of peace.  Reconciliation, as a concept, is problematic.  It presupposes that we were once conciliated, that we lived and worked in harmony.  Not only is it not true, it also shouldn’t be so.  There can be no peace between the bourgeoisie, workers and peasants as they have different interests.  But in the case of Colombia, what does it mean between those who stole from peasants and those same peasants?  What would the reconciliation between the business people who support Petro and their employees?  It is worth recalling that during the Agrarian Strike of 2014, Piedad Córdoba denounced the peasants, saying the strike was inconvenient.  In Petro’s new government, if he wins a majority in the congressional elections this month and the presidential elections in May, the strikes and protests of the working class and peasantry will not be convenient either.  As proof of this, it is worth remembering that, almost from the word go, Petro argued against the National Strike last year, as it wasn’t convenient either.

So, peace won’t come.  The priority will be the internal scrap for jobs, money, the gravy train and various policies where there are greater contradictions.  Reconciliation will be nothing more than submission.  Every time someone protests, Petro, Cepeda and Córdoba will say that they endanger the new government, peace, reconciliation and they are enemies of progress.  They will pay for advertisements in left wing newspapers just like Lucho Garzón did when he was mayor of Bogotá and thus buy their silence.  The best militants will be bought off with jobs in that government.  Those who analyse and criticize Duque’s policies will go on to draw up Petro’s new policies and refute any criticism, especially that which comes from the left.  At least this way they will be able to reconcile their accounts and sleep peacefully in their luxury houses.

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