The peace talks between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Juan Manuel Santos government are in recess until January 14. Thus far the two contending forces are discussing one of the most contentious issues of Colombia’s civil war: the agrarian economy and land distribution. Land not only impacts the country's present political economy but also influences both Colombia's past and future peace.
The question of land may take many more weeks to resolve. Those forces most likely to hold up the talks, particularly the cattle ranchers represented by the Federation of Cattle Ranchers (FEDEGAN) in alliance with the former conservative president Alvaro Uribe Velez and his supporters, will increase their fight against any agrarian reform that might affect the land tenure system or the rentier model of economic development. FEDEGAN finds support from trade groups such as the Society of Agrarian Businesses of Colombia (SAC) and the African Palm Agribusinesses, as well as multinational corporations.
The FARC negotiators are up against a formidable coalition of reactionary forces—including the Colombian state—to put the country on the track of an agrarian economic model to promote developement. This approach diametrically diverges from the rentier-model economy that generates profits without achieving development to improve the living standards and quality of life of the whole population. The FARC insistence in “meterle pueblo,” that is, letting community members express their opinions, is key to the negotiations. To achieve this, the FARC and the government have agreed to call upon the United Nations and Colombia's National University to facilitate the popular participation by organizing forums in which groups as well as individuals present their views and proposals to the negotiators. These forums could help in creating popular support to counterbalance pro-business special interests. Without this mass support, the FARC’s negotiators would most likely obtain little if any concessions from the government.
“Meterle más pueblo” in this new year!
Nazih Richani is the Director of Latin American studies at Kean University. He blogs at nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos.