The negotiations between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Juan Manuel Santos government have advanced, and last week they established a benchmark for the first item on their discussion of the agrarian question. Both parties have agreed that a “sufficient consensus” is emerging on their views on the democratization of property rights and access to property. This is a breakthrough representing real progress in reaching an agreement, or a“sufficient consensus,” on one of the thorniest issues that has eluded both parties for 49 long years of a bloody conflict.
Now the key question that some skeptics are raising is whether this advancement validates the commitment of the two parties to a political solution.
I think yes, and this is why. First the Santos governing team and his key supporters are convinced that in order to implement their vision of economic development based on agribusinesses, extractive mining, and, oil—all of which are based in remote rural areas—they need to neutralize the guerrillas threat. The FARC, National Liberation Army (ELN), and National People Army (EPL) have a strong presence in these areas and are capable of inflicting serious damage. In fact, last week the ELN kidnapped five employees working for a Toronto- based Canadian multinational Braeval Mining Corp, and the FARC blew up one pipeline. Consequently, this makes the environment for foreign investors not only risky and costly, but also deadly. The state has tried the military option for almost 50 years, but to no avail. Therefore, they have started down the avenue of negotiation.
Keep in mind that Colombia has never before been as committed or as dependent on agribusiness and extraction as it is today. This dramatic shift in the country’s political economy is what is driving the Santos team and his supporters to find a peaceful solution. Foreign direct investments (FDI) in 2012 reached $16 billion while in 2000 FDI was only $2.3 billion, and the governing elite is aspiring to increase FDI to $45 billion by 2015. Most of these resources are directed toward mining, oil, and biofuel crops. Ensuring a secure investor environment, in addition to other contractual incentives, is crucial to making this happen.
Now, the FARC, and its junior partners ELN and EPL, are thinking that they can amend the course of the current shift through negotiations and eventually engaging the democratic political game. The advent of leftist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Paraguay have created a new regional environment that has convinced the rebels that their arm struggle has achieved its end—at least for now—and that is time to experiment via electoral politics. The armed struggle and popular resistance will always be an option. Case in point—in the wake of the collapse of the autocracy of Hosni Mubarak and the election of the right wing Islamist Muhamad Morsi, the people of Egypt are again taking the streets struggling for social justice: bread, equality and freedom.
Consequently, the Colombian rebels are also committed to finding a solution and experimenting with electoral politics in pursuit of their legitimate goals of bread, equality, and freedom.
Nazih Richani is the Director of Latin American studies at Kean University. He blogs at nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos.