Here’s my 250-word response to a question in today’s edition of the Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor publication, about the state of peace accord implementation in Colombia.
Q: The U.N. Security Council on Sept. 13 extended the mandate of its mission overseeing the implementation of Colombia’s peace agreement with the FARC rebels. The council also called on the FARC and President Iván Duque’s government “to renew momentum” in implementing the peace deal. Could both sides indeed speed up implementation of the peace accord, and what should they do to achieve that? What is the significance of reports that FARC commanders Hernán Darío Velásquez, also known as “El Paisa,” and Luciano Marín, also known as “Iván Márquez,” have gone missing? Will the peace accord remain intact during Duque’s administration?
A: The FARC peace accord will remain in place, and President Duque will not “tear it to shreds.” We’ll see some efforts toward implementation. Still, the sad but likely scenario is that, over the course of the Duque government, the accord will erode to its barest essence.
The accord’s vital first chapter, on rural reform and territorial governance, is moribund. Guarantees of political participation are undermined by a wave of social-leader killings. Promises of crop-substitution support for coca-growing households are uncertain.
The main reason is that there’s no money. Colombia’s budget deficit is ballooning, and resources are being eaten up by the need to attend to Venezuelan migrants and by pressure to step up coca-eradication operations.
There’s also little political interest or institutional capacity to capitalize on the FARC’s absence and bring a state presence into long-abandoned areas. That would take a “Marshall Plan” or “moon shot” level of investment and mobilization, and it’s not happening. Meanwhile, new armed groups are filling in the territorial vacuums that the FARC left behind and the state failed to fill.
FARC members are defecting, or just “clandestinizing” themselves out of fear that they might be capriciously arrested and extradited. In the near term, the Duque government must at least get right the reintegration of ex-combatants. The cost isn’t large, but it will mean providing land to those who want to work it. And the U.S. government must state publicly that it is not seeking to round up ex-FARC leaders for extradition, that those who are sticking to their accord commitments need not abandon the process out of fear of being sent to a U.S. jail.