General Background – The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was created in 1966 by a group of communist rebels, led by Manuel Marulanda, calling for land reform and violent resistance against the government. In the following years, FARC participated in both kidnapping for ransom and drug trafficking in order to fund its operations, including militant resistance. After a ceasefire in 1982, FARC was targeted by right-wing paramilitary groups, beginning a new round of violence between multiple groups aligned with FARC, the government, and criminal gangs. In 2012, FARC ended kidnappings and agreed to resume peace talks with the Colombian government, though such talks were frequently interrupted by violence and ransoming. In October of 2016, a peace agreement was held to a popular vote in a referendum and was narrowly rejected.
Who – The Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
What – The government and FARC have signed a peace agreement following four years of negotiations and a failed referendum on a previous peace deal in October.
The current peace agreement includes:
- A pathway for FARC members to establish a peaceful political party, though they will not be allowed to run in newly created districts in former conflict zones (NYT)
- Amnesty for lower-level FARC members
- FARC surrendering all of its assets, which will be used to compensate victims of the civil war
- A disarmament of all FARC forces
- Fighters and members of FARC who admit to their deeds and make reparations to victims are to serve 5-8 years with highly restricted movement, but not prison sentences
- Rebels accused of serious offenses, such as war crimes and drug trafficking, will be tried in a special peace tribunal comprised only of Colombian judges
When – December 1, 2016
How – After narrowly failing to pass a peace agreement through popular referendum in October, Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, held a vote through Colombia’s congress after renegotiating with FARC leadership, which resulted in approval by the Colombian legislature. It should be noted that political opponents of the agreement, led by former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, boycotted the voting process.
What Next? – The president hopes to pass the necessary bills to affirm the specifics of the treaty as soon as possible. In order to do so, Colombia’s top court must rule that a “fast-track” process is allowable, meaning that the package of laws can bypass some procedural steps typically required. If successful, disarmament and transition supervised by the United Nations could begin before the end of 2016. Otherwise, FARC members will be trapped in legal uncertainty while Colombian officials debate legislation and opponents of the agreement could prolong the effort in hopes that the agreement will fall apart.