It is almost tautological to say that Colombians desire peace. Who wouldn’t, especially in a country that has suffered decades of internal confrontation?
Desiring peace, however, is not the same as desiring a peace process, or desiring any peace process. Rushing into peace talks lacking a clear strategy, proceeding upon false assumptions and believing that good will alone is enough to secure peace has been the fatal flaw of all recent attempts to end Colombia’s conflict by agreement rather than by force. High enthusiasm followed by bitter disappointment has been the mark, at least in the most prominent cases: the peace talks conducted under President Belisario Betancur in the 1980s, and the infamous process that took place during the term of President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002).
Common sense would indicate that President Santos is not bound to repeat these mistakes, as he walks toward what seems to be his greatest personal goal: to preside over a successful peace process with the FARC and the ELN, Colombia’s remaining left-wing guerilla organizations. Lessons from the past must have been learnt, and, in any case, Santos has proved to have a more strategically oriented behavior than some of his predecessors.
Nonetheless, at times it seems like the Santos administration is again rushing carelessly: proof of this would be the so-called “Legal Framework for Peace,” a constitutional amendment introduced in Congress by the Administration, which is close to being approved. The “Framework,” which aims at removing legal obstacles for the demobilization of guerilla members and commanders, has drawn criticism from many corners. From the Right, former President Uribe and others regard it as an excessive concession since it would grant perpetrators of horrific crimes the possibility of even being elected to public office. From a different perspective, Human Rights Watch has severely criticized the amendment, claiming that its outcome would be full impunity for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The “Framework,” many others claim, is premature: it should be introduced at the final stage of a negotiation, not before it has even started.