Colombia Vote For Peace, but Obstacles Remain

Posted on Jun 17 2014 - 11:23am by Rico

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Voters in Colombia have reelected incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos, whose electoral platform centered on continuing peace processes with the country’s guerrilla groups, but any peace agreement could still be a long way off.

On June 15, Santos was reelected with 7,816,986 votes — just slightly over 50 percent of the registered ballots — defeating Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, the candidate representing former President Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center party, who received 45 percent of the vote.

Santos’ victory guaranteed the continuation of the peace process the government has been carrying out with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) since October 2012, and the preliminary peace talks currently underway with National Liberation Army (ELN), which were formally announced five days before the election. Zuluaga, on the other hand, had said he would suspend the peace negotiations if he won, unless the FARC agreed to a unilateral ceasefire.

In spite of Santos’ reelection, any peace agreement with the FARC or the ELN is far from guaranteed. Santos’ slim victory over Zuluaga suggests the country remains divided over the peace talks, and since any eventual agreement will be submitted to a referendum, Santos will have to build broad support for the peace process.

To consolidate said support, the president may be tempted to speed negotiations and push for an agreement with the FARC by the end of 2014. However, there would be numerous obstacles to such a move.

The FARC and the ELN could take advantage of Santos’ reelection to move at a slower pace and make additional demands. As noted by El Tiempo, the FARC will likely want to ensure Santos’ second term policies are conducive to the agreements both parties have reached on land reform, political participation and illegal drugs.

It is also unclear how much progress has actually been made at the negotiating table. While Colombian officials have led the public to believe three points on the agenda have already been resolved, some highly controversial elements have yet to be discussed. Negotiators have said in the past no deal will be signed until agreement is reached on all items.

The peace process is further complicated by the fact that elements of the FARC and ELN are heavily involved in the illegal drug trade. Although the FARC has promised to cut all ties to drug trafficking organizations once an agreement is finalized, some units could reject demobilization and go into business for themselves.

Source: InSight Crime