professor of political science at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia. He served as Colombia’s high commissioner for peace from 1995 to 1998. García-Peña is also the founder of the organization Planeta Paz, or Planet Peace, dedicated to building grassroots participation in the Colombian peace process.
professor of communications at Hofstra University. He is the author of Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest, and Destabilization.
One of the world’s longest conflicts appears to be nearing an end after more than 50 years of fighting. Today, Colombian government officials and FARC rebels are gathering in Havana, Cuba, to announce a historic ceasefire nearly four years in the making.The breakthrough deal reportedly includes terms on an armistice, the handing over of weapons, and the security of insurgents who give up their arms. The conflict in Colombia began in 1964 and has claimed some 220,000 lives. More than 5 million people are estimated to have been displaced. Later today, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC commander Timoleón Jiménez—known as Timochenko—will formally announce the terms of the ceasefire at a ceremony in Havana. We speak to Colombia’s former High Commissioner for Peace Daniel García-Peña and author Mario Murillo.
AMY GOODMAN: One of the world’s longest conflicts appears to be nearing an end after more than 50 years of fighting. Today, Colombian government officials and FARC rebels are gathering in Havana, Cuba, to announce a historic ceasefire nearly four years in the making. Colombian government spokeswoman Marcela Duran outlined the agreement.
MARCELA DURAN: [translated] The national government and FARC delegations inform the public that we have successfully agreed to a definitive and bilateral ceasefire and the laying down of arms, security guarantees, and to fight against organized crime units responsible for homicides and massacres, or those which attack human rights defenders, social or political movements, including organized crime units that have been denominated as successors of the paramilitary and its support networks, and the persecution of criminal conduct which threatens the implementation of agreements and peace building.
AMY GOODMAN: Later today, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC commander Timoleón Jiménez—known as Timochenko—will formally announce the terms of the ceasefire at a ceremony in Havana. The conflict in Colombia began in '64, has claimed some 220,000 lives. More than 5 million people are estimated to have been displaced. The ceasefire must now be approved in a referendum in Colombia, where it's likely to face staunch opposition from right-wing sectors of Colombian society, led by the former Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe. If the ceasefire is approved and implemented, it would bring an end to Latin America’s longest armed conflict.
For more, we’re going directly to Bogotá to speak with Daniel García-Peña. He served as Colombia’s high commissioner for peace from '95 to ’98. He's also the founder of the organization Planeta Paz, or Planet Peace, dedicated to building grassroots participation in the Colombian peace process. Here in New York, we’re joined by Mario Murillo, the professor of media at the Department of Radio, Television, Film at Hofstra University, co-director of the Center for Civic Engagement.
Daniel García-Peña, let’s begin with you in Bogotá. The significance of what’s happening today in Havana, Cuba?
DANIEL GARCÍA-PEÑA: Well, this is a huge step, historic, really. As you mentioned, the FARC is the oldest and the largest guerrilla movement in Colombia. There’s been a lot of skepticism as to their willingness to actually lay down their arms. But the announcement that we are expecting today, the terms, the specific terms of how that will take place, will end one of the biggest controversies and will really begin a process of implementation of the agreement that is of major importance.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Mario Murillo, your response to what we’re seeing today?
MARIO MURILLO: Well, I mean, you’d have to be really cynical not to recognize the importance or significance, as our guest Daniel García-Peña just pointed out. It’s an incredible moment in Colombian history, given the long-standing nature of this conflict. And it is indeed the beginning of the end of the military conflict between the government and the FARC rebels. It is not necessarily the end of the war, and that’s one thing that we have to be very cautious about, because it’s going to be a long process of implementation and of also securing the many different points of the agenda, which is—it was almost a four-year process that took place. They were discussing a whole set of issues that are clearly not going to be resolved overnight, and that people have to remain really vigilant to make sure that they are indeed followed up on.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, as Colombia’s former high commissioner for peace, Daniel García-Peña, can you lay out what the components of this agreement are that you understand that’s going to be signed today?
DANIEL GARCÍA-PEÑA: Well, there’s several parts. There’s actually four parts. The first has to do with the definitive and bilateral ceasefire that establishes, basically, an end to all actions both on the side of the government and on the side of the FARC, not only direct confrontation, but all activities that have been linked to the war—attacks on the civilian population and so forth.
Secondly has to do with guarantees for the—those that will soon be ex-combatants, to guarantee that we do not repeat what happened in the 1980s and ’90s with the Unión Patriótica, a political movement that was established in previous peace talks, that were systematically eliminated, were assassinated, and that led the FARC to be very skeptical as to their future. But the government has agreed to very specific measures to guarantee the safety of the guerrilla leaders in the future.
Thirdly is the issue of laying down their arms, which will imply the concentration of the troops. It is still not certain exactly in how many places in Colombia. There have been debates. The FARC originally asked for 80 different sites throughout the country. The government began offering aid. There’s speculation that the final figure may be somewhere between 20 and 30. But the significant aspect is that, first of all, the guerrillas will concentrate in these specific areas, and, secondly, the United Nations will head a verification group that will be composed of the nations of the—of Latin America and the Caribbean to guarantee that the process goes smoothly. The process of laying down their arms, apparently, will be gradual. There will be—there will be a timetable set for this to happen.
And lastly, there are measures that have been announced, or that will be announced, regarding the paramilitary groups, the groups that have continued to exist throughout the country, and the government’s commitment to end whatever links may exist with these groups and to combat their successors.
So, there are very significant aspects to the agreement. This is not the final agreement, nevertheless. There are still a few points to be negotiated that have to do with the issue of how this will be referended in the—by the Colombian people, the issues of how this will be financed. But there’s no doubt that the laying down of arms and the ceasefire is a major, major step. And we all see that the issues to be resolved should be able to be resolved sooner than later.
AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of Havana, of Cuba negotiating this agreement between the two sides in Colombia?
DANIEL GARCÍA-PEÑA: It has been really very important, for many reasons. The Cubans have, from the very beginning, offered a very significant support for the process. The FARC, as many guerrillas in Colombia and throughout Latin America, see the Cuban revolution and the Cuban government as—with great respect. And the pressure that the Cuban government has put on the FARC and the guerrillas has been quite significant, but also the way that they have been very discreet in allowing the Colombians, both the government and the guerrillas, to really take the lead and to drive this process. The fact that Cuba is entering into a new moment of its relations with the United States, and with the world, in general, has also been quite significant. And I think that this is one of the aspects that weighed heavily upon the Colombian guerrillas to understand that to continue the armed struggle simply had no future whatsoever. So, the role of the Cubans has been quite significant. The presence of President Raúl Castro in today’s event will symbolize the role, the very crucial role, that the Cubans have played throughout this whole process.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Mario Murillo, the role of the United States in Colombia over these decades?
MARIO MURILLO: Well, it’s going to be key to see what role they’re going to play in this process now as it’s unfolding, as Daniel García-Peña just laid out. But if we look at the history of U.S.—the U.S. role, we can go back before the start of the FARC, but certainly since the FARC started. And, in fact, part of the argument that the FARC laid out in 1964, 52 years ago, when they were mobilizing and carrying out their initial attempts at land reform and justice and political participation—the same issues that were being negotiated in Havana—they pointed out that if there was a political solution that was looked for and searched for back in the 1960s, based on their demands that were representative of the countryside, of the demands of the people in the countryside, the peasantry, there wouldn’t be a FARC. Now, some people could say that’s historical revisionism, that, obviously, so many things have happened over those 52 years. But what happened was that the United States, under the Johnson administration, insisted on a military solution to the uprising that was taking place in the countryside in Colombia at that time—fear of another Cuba in South America. And obviously that was the approach. And then—that was in the 1960s.
In the 1980s, which was just referred to in terms of how the peace process at that time was trying to politically insert the FARC through the Patriotic Union into the landscape of electoral politics and political participation, the response was a military response, massacring 3,000 to 4,000 militants of the UP. And it was with the support of the Reagan administration and the, you know, CIA in military involvement then. And then—and this is something that Daniel García-Peña is very clear about—in the 1990s, late '90s and early ’80s, which he initiated in part of those last negotiations, the attempt was—when they were just about to negotiate and begin a process of peace back then, the response was Plan Colombia, militarization, strengthening the armed forces. And now people are, you know, historically looking at it and saying, "Well, the U.S.—if it wasn't for the U.S. support, we wouldn’t have gotten to this point." But if it—but the bottom line is, 15 years have passed since those previous negotiations. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions displaced. And so, we have to say, what has been the result of those last 15 years of war, that might have been resolved had they looked at other options?
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to continue this conversation and post it online at democracynow.org. Daniel García-Peña, thanks so much for being with us from Bogotá, Colombia, Colombia’s former high commissioner for peace. And, as well, Mario Murillo, thanks so much for being with us.
That does it for our broadcast. We have two job openings.