“Waging war is easy, making peace is difficult.” Repeating this mantra, former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sees progress in the implementation of the peace agreement with the defunct guerrillas of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
“The politically motivated conflict is over, but the current government must prevent criminal groups linked to drug trafficking from occupying areas that were previously controlled by guerrillas,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said in 2016 in an interview with Folha.
Santos criticizes the slowness of the current president, Iván Duque, sponsored by Álvaro Uribe, his main political rival, in fulfilling the main points of the pact. For the former Colombian leader, the delay has allowed violence to return to these regions. So much so that, on the 24th last, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a report warning of an increase in violence in the country.
In 2020, according to the document, 389 civilians were killed in attacks by criminal factions – the highest number since 2016, when the peace deal was approved.
Santos also says that Latin America has to experience a new wave of protests because of the pandemic. “There was already dissatisfaction among political leaders before the arrival of the coronavirus, and it will come back with more force, as the problems have worsened.”
Like mr. do you see Latin America in this pandemic? This crisis has exposed and exacerbated the problems that the region has always faced in terms of inequality and poverty. It has increased the mistrust of the populations towards their leaders and their institutions. This coincided with a lack of leadership in Latin America. Today’s world is characterized by a lack of leadership at the global level, and the Latin American case is particularly serious. From Argentina to Mexico, there are no leaders capable of transmitting security to society. The region is adrift. In many countries, the law of the pendulum which goes from left to right and vice versa, and which is an inexorable law in politics, is being verified. This has happened in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Mexico. In Brazil the change has been more abrupt, but I’m sure the pendulum law will also apply and there will be a shift to the center or to the left at some point.
Latin American countries have not been able to provide the people with what they demanded. There is a very big difference between the expectations of society and the ability of states to meet them, even in a country that, for example, considered itself a Latin American star, like Chile. What drove the Chileans onto the streets remains to be resolved. People expect a lot from the state, they expect equality, access to opportunities, and when it turns out that this has not been achieved, they take to the streets to protest.
Sir. Do you think the events that marked the year 2019 can come back? I have no doubt. Simply mitigate the pandemic, and the discontent will reappear, and more strongly, as the situation in general has worsened – the pandemic is creating new problems. This discontent will be seen in all countries. The challenge will be to face this social discontent. It will be necessary to avoid demagogic populisms, because Latin America has always been subject to them, to caudillism. I hope we can find this new paradigm, which is not difficult to draw.
Latin America needs policies that generate more equality, that share more wealth, it needs better access to basic services, such as education and health. And there is one theme which, fortunately, has been increasingly important on the world stage and in which Latin America can and must play a leading role in the world, namely the environmental theme. I know there are a lot of presidents who don’t like the subject. But this is an issue that the whole world is attaching more and more importance to, and I hope that around this issue we can begin to bring the countries of Latin America together. Crises like the one we are living in create opportunities. I believe that in Latin America it will be a question of discussing a new model of development and the relationship between the population and the state, a new social contract.
The protests also took place in Colombia and were interrupted by the pandemic. Will they reproduce too? Yes, Colombia followed Chile’s example and also took to the streets due to inequalities and popular discontent with the state. But in the Colombian case, there was another factor. Young people have spoken out against the current government because it has been very reluctant towards the peace process, which will be a topic in the streets and in the 2022 elections. [quando a Colômbia vai escolher um novo presidente].
Sir. he says that there will be more roles for the state, that more will be required of the state. But how to have more state and, at the same time, avoid authoritarianisms, caudillisms, so culturally linked to Latin America? The pandemic, in Latin America and around the world, will undoubtedly result in increased state involvement in everything, especially in health, as we are currently seeing with vaccination. Of course, authoritarianism can decline, but new solutions can also emerge. For example, we see countries led by women, like New Zealand, Norway, and Germany, that have handled the pandemic better. And women’s leadership is less assertive and more persuasive. The way to escape caudillism is to create these new leaders, following the model, for example, of these leaders who generate confidence.
How does the peace process in Colombia, which started with the agreement approved in 2016, have so far been balanced? Each peace process has two phases. The first is the signing of the agreement and the short-term decisions. In this we have had great success. We demobilized most of the combatants and disarmed nearly 93% of what the FARC were. This is a very high level of grip. However, there is a second part which is peacebuilding, and it takes time, it is more difficult. We must reconcile people who, until yesterday, committed suicide. We had difficulties that I consider normal and foreseeable, especially with an elected government with a discourse hostile to the project. However, this leadership is constitutionally bound to comply with it. And, in a way, he conformed, against the will, but he conformed slowly.
What worries me most is that the government has not been able to control the territories where the FARC once operated, and it is in these places that the assassination of social leaders, of former members of the demobilized FARC and coordinators of related programs. place to agreement, such as the voluntary replacement of illicit crops. In these regions, further efforts are needed to implement the agreement. Another issue that needs to move forward is the rural reform that the agreement stipulates.
It is in the countryside that poverty, inequality and violence have always been concentrated. And that was also handled slowly. But the deal establishes a three-term presidential term to take action to bring peace. We are still halfway through the first. A long stretch is missing.
There has been a series of massacres of civilians, as well as killings of social leaders, such as Mr. mentioned. Do you think this gave the impression that the deal was unnecessary, even though homicides have actually declined nationally? In areas where the FARC previously operated, there is much less violence. There is, however, a cross-cutting problem that characterizes Colombia, namely drug trafficking. A large part of these massacres that we are witnessing are made up of territorial disputes between drug trafficking cartels. But there is a difference: the dissidence of the FARC today recruits people from outside, there is no recruitment of children to get out of the guerrillas, there is a merger with other criminals, individually. or collectively. And new criminal factions are forming.
The FARC brand has disappeared, and it is an important symbol. We no longer have violence marked by political conflict. The FARC party, which is now called Common, is in Congress and does not abhor Colombian families living in the countryside.
Sir. he was the victim of false news, starting with the expression Uribe coined about you, that he was a “Castroist”. The peace deal has also been called something that “would wipe out the Colombian family” for including gender issues. How do you see the situation? Why, after the plebiscite victory in Colombia, have other votes in the world been marked by false news, such as Brexit and the election of Trump? At the time of the deal, I underestimated the power and ability of fake news to convince people and learned of its destructive power by living it in the skin. I thought to myself, “What they are saying is so crazy, how is anyone going to believe this illusion?” I thought the campaign against me and against the deal was beyond all logic and therefore no one would believe it. Only they believed it! The country’s attorney general at the time, Néstor Humberto Martínez, a guy so conservative he burned books in his youth, said the gender chapter of the peace deal would end Colombian families because ‘there was a hidden “gender ideology”.
He told religious leaders to ask people to vote “no” because there was an article in the agreement on respect for sexual diversity and that endangered the values of Colombian society. I didn’t care because it seemed ridiculous to me that no one would believe. But this is how “no” won, as 35% of the people who voted “no” voted because of what they heard about this article. And the term castro-chavista, for which I’m still known, was used by Joe Biden in the election against Donald Trump. An export from Colombia to the USA [risos].
What is mr. wait for President Biden for Latin America? I am very excited, because I have always disagreed completely with Trump. I know Biden very well. He was in Colombia when I was Minister of the Economy. He knows Latin America, he’s been here 18 times. As far as Colombia is concerned, I know that you are interested in the agreement, which was directly involved by Barack Obama. I believe that your priority will be to help solve the problems of Central America, caused by immigrants. And it works very well. It is only with investments in these countries that it is possible to solve this problem, it is not by building a wall.
Juan Manuel Santo, 69 years old
Former President of Colombia (2010-2018), he was Minister of Defense in the government of Álvaro Uribe before being elected. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for concluding a peace deal with the FARC under his government. He is the author of the book “La Batalla por La Paz” (the battle for peace), which tells the background of the agreement.