Better than War

The peace agreement between the Colombian government and the national guerrilla movement sets a rare precedent of ending a long-lasting and bloody civil war through the power of political will and a long-awaited chance at changing life for the better – even if the process will drag on for decades.

The Peace Agreement between official representatives of the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was signed in Havana in late August, and then sealed in its final version during a ceremony in Cartagena on 26 September, in the presence of state leaders and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The event, which was preceded by four years of negotiations, was unanimously regarded as historical by observers. It formally puts an end to one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in history – during the half-century for which the civil war in Colombia stretched out, about 250,000 people became its victims, and millions were forced to flee their homes.

The signed document paves the way not only to the civilian world, but also for the beginning of a full-fledged recovery of the Colombian economy. However, it will be very difficult to achieve positive results. One can surmise this based on the example of neighboring Latin Americans whose recent histories include similar troubles. El Salvador and Nicaragua, for example, have not been able to bear down the economic devastation, even after two decades of peace. They remain in a state of criminal war, still leading the world in the number of murders per capita.

All this holds true for Colombia as well. Although the local government hopes to attract foreign investors in the near future, it will need to do a lot of work to convince them of the economic attractiveness and the safety of such investments. It will be impossible to achieve this without solving the problem of drug traffic control and fighting effectively against cartels and drug trafficking.

It is no secret that the FARC holds one of the central roles in the control of the country’s multi-billion dollar criminal market. In fact, despite its Marxist-Christian ideological backing, the group has been one of Colombia’s leading drug cartels in recent years, and it ‘tax on the revolution’ owns plantations, receives a ‘tax on the revolution’ from local drug lords, and shoots those who disobey. It is not clear what will happen after FARC lays down its arms and joins in the political process in accordance with the peace agreements. There are also no guarantees that all the guerilla commanders will agree to submit the agreement demonstrating a revolutionary discipline, instead of joining the fight for the redistribution of income from cocaine sales and trafficking.

The fate of the agreement is also still hanging in the balance: 50.2% of Colombians voted against it at the October 2 referendum, although President Juan Manuel Santos assured that the ceasefire will remain in force.

This means that peace in Colombia may stay ‘bad’ for decades ahead. But even that is better than a ‘good’ war. We also have to consider the fact that each such precedent is one more step toward a more dignified life for the poorest and most disadvantaged regions of the world.

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