During President Juan Manuel Santos’s visit to Washington, Pres Obama congratulated him “on his bold and brave efforts to bring about a lasting and just peace inside of Colombia in his negotiations with the FARC.”
Yet for all the good will expressed throughout Washington—White House, Congress, private sector, journalists, current and former USG officials—we know that the path forward in the peace negotiations is complicated and difficult.
President Santos initially set a deadline of November 2013 for the conclusion of the talks, a month that coincided with the opening of the electoral campaign season in Colombia. Despite that ambitious goal, rebel and government negotiators have reached agreement on two of five agenda items. The talks will continue in the midst of the intensely partisan political season about to unfold.
Both opposition candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga and former President Álvaro Uribe have campaigned actively against the talks and especially the idea of demobilized FARC combatants’ open participation in politics. A majority of Colombians –58 % according to LAPOP poll conducted in Agu-Sept--still supports the talks, yet more than ¾’s thought there was little or no possibility of achieving a negotiated solution in the next year.
Strong opposition—between 60 and almost 80 % --to the idea of the FARC’s forming a political party or participating in municipal, congressional, or local elections.
Can the talks survive in the current context? What will be the impact of Colombia’s electoral season on the negotiations underway in Havana? Is it possible to assess the FARC’s game plan and interest in a political settlement? How do the hints of peace talks with the ELN complicate or facilitate the FARC process?
We are grateful to NOREF for its generous financial support.