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Colombia peace deal reaches first year with new challenges in the second

November 30, 2017 - COLOMBIA

One year ago Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed an agreement that ended over half a century of war. The pact's biggest tests loom in its second year, starting with forthcoming elections.

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos negotiated the agreement and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Full implementation will require the continuing commitment of FARC leaders and the government installed after the elections.

That government will also have to find the money to finance the peace. The promises made to the rebels - aid, education, land reform, rural infrastructure, guaranteed political representation and protection from the reprisals of right-wing paramilitary groups - will be expensive. A Los Angeles Times analysis notes that the bill is big for a country running fiscal deficits and suffering from price declines in its principal exports, oil and coal.

Former President Alvaro Uribe, still powerful and influential, opposed the peace deal. A triumph for his right-wing Democratic Center Party in the March congressional election might mark the beginning of the end for the agreement, with the death blow delivered in May if his party's nominee wins the presidency.

Implementation appears to be lagging. The LA newspaper reported in Mar 2017 that complaints about the deal from both sides come at a time when the Santos government remains highly unpopular and many of his ministers are leaving the government to begin their campaigns for the elections. Each side accuses the other of non-compliance. Former FARC leader Ivan Marquez says the government has not followed through on promises of food, clothing, money or housing, while the government is blaming FARC for being slow to turn over arms and explosives, and for making demands not included in the deal.

FARC, paramilitaries and the Colombian army fought over territory for decades, with fighting and atrocities on all sides that caused massive death and displacement. The 1980s saw a push for peace that collapsed. The Santos agreement, involving some 7,000 FARC rebels, was signed in Havana after four years of negotiations. A majority of voters rejected the peace deal in Oct 2016, reflecting Uribe's campaign against it and a widespread opinion that it was too favorable to the rebels. The pact was revised and put to vote in Congress in November. Congress said Yes, and ratified the agreement in the following month.

The euphoria that followed the agreement has given way to the sobering realities surrounding its implementation, according to the LA newspaper. Some analysts fear the financial, political and security challenges may be too much for the Colombian government to handle.

Colombia has a peace deal, but can it be implemented? (LA Times Mar 2017)

Politics Roils Colombia's Tentative Peace Deal With the FARC (FP Jul 2016)

Date written/update: 2017-06-02