Negotiating an end to the almost half-century of violent conflict in Colombia is in itself complex due to the multidimensionality of such long lasting war. But, in the Colombian case, these peace talks are taking place with two additional aggravating factors. One is that the peace talks are taking place while the war is escalating on the ground, motivating each actor to strengthen their negotiating position. This is compounded by the politics of a presidential electoral campaign with two competing agendas: one of peace and one of peace detraction.
The armed conflict and electoral politics may affect the course of negotiations unless the Juan Manuel Santos government takes steps to de-escalate the war, which could deny the detractors of peace the chance to manipulate public opinion in favor of the continuation of the war. Former president Alvaro Uribe Velez and his latifundistas companions use every insurgent attack to discredit the utility of the Havana talks. This socioeconomic group amassed its fortunes during the war and feels threatened that a negotiated peace might result in reform that will redistribute land.
In this respect it is important to note that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have introduced two important documents outlining its vision on land reform and sustainable rural development. FARC’s proposals draw on the serious debate between peasant groups and experts that is gaining support by raising the specter of land reform. The FARC’s proposals would modernize the antiquated land registries that have served the latifundios so well since colonial times. These proposals stress democratizing access to property, granting constitutional protection to the subsistence peasant economy and communal land of the Colombo-African communities and the indigenous people, and the protection of natural reserves from the encroachments of national and international capital, land speculators, and mining corporations.
Hence, FARC’s military operations and articulation of its agrarian reforms are both unwittingly helping the detractors by galvanizing the opposition. This is the dialectics of conflicts and social contradiction at its best—a la Marx.
Nazih Richani is the Director of Latin American studies at Kean University. He blogs at nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos.