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Is Colombia's Decades-Long War Finally Over?

Question: Colombia’s Senate on Tuesday approved and sent to the lower house of Congress the government’s renegotiated peace accord with the FARC rebels. The approval came less than a week after President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, or Timochenko, signed the agreement to end the country’s more than half-century armed conflict. Rather than again seeking the approval from voters, who rejected the original accord in October, Santos has pinned his hopes on Congress, where his coalition has a majority, for the new accord’s ratification. How different is this peace deal from the earlier version that voters rejected? How likely is the new deal to receive final ratification, and what are some of the criticisms it faces?

Answer: Barry McCaffrey, president of BR McCaffrey Associates, a retired U.S. Army four-star general and former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy: “There is an enormous hunger for peace in Colombia. The dreadful civil war has dragged on for some 52 years and consumed many of the dreams and possibilities of the people and the nation. This has been an endless national nightmare that entangled the FARC (which began as a Marxist struggle for justice and land) with sheer drug criminal greed and abuse of the people. The FARC in the end lost its way and became a giant criminal organization that waged criminal depredations against the people. In turn, the Colombian people came to despise the FARC and the ELN, as well as the many criminal bands who created endless savage chaos and fear with drug addiction, extortion, kidnappings, murder and abuse of the rural population. The only reason the FARC went to Havana to negotiate is because the Colombian Armed Forces and the Colombian National Police were inexorably destroying their ability to fight and survive. No insurgency group negotiates away advantages they have secured through bloodshed. These Colombian security forces were viewed with heroic respect by the overwhelming majority of Colombians. The FARC was headed toward complete dissolution. Much of this success occurred because of the implacable resolve of President Álvaro Uribe and his government. President Juan Manuel Santos made a brave and historic gamble for peace. The problem remains that the new accord will never hold the FARC legally accountable for its criminal behavior with drugs and violence. The FARC refused to be vulnerable to criminal prosecution and incarceration. There will also be no bar to political participation for FARC leaders involved in criminal behavior.”

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