Peace in Colombia: Reality, Myth and Wishful Thinking

Peace in Colombia: Reality, Myth and Wishful Thinking

Lara Montesinos Coleman and Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

Brighton and Bogotá, April 2013

The peace process in Colombia has aroused interest in the country once again. Aid agencies, government bodies and academics are re‐engaging with the internal armed conflict and with the prospects for an end to the insurgencies of the FARC‐EP and the ELN. Much of the commentary and analysis is a mixture of old myths about the nature of the conflict and wishful, if not woolly, thinking. One such example of this is the recent policy briefing by Matt Ince and Andrei Gómez‐Suarez Ending Colombia’s Internal Conflict: Prospects for Peace with the FARC and Beyond.

The paper sounds a cautious note at the beginning stating that “The Santos‐FARC peace talks therefore remain a dynamic highly uncertain process and despite cautious optimism, the establishment of a meaningful peace agreement is still by no means guaranteed.” It then proceeds to throw caution to the wind, outlining a series of reasons for optimism that either ignore or distort the nature of the conflict. This is perhaps to be expected. International experience of peace processes indicates that in the name of “peace” ‐ which is never defined, but is presumed to be a lack of armed activity by anyone other than state agents ‐ critical faculties are abandoned and reality is twisted to meet a political agenda. Academics or activists who point out the shortcomings of the process are accused of being in favour of further violence. It is, however, necessary to address the reality of the conflict and of the interests involved. No amount of wishful thinking can overcome the reality of a murderous regime or the game of smoke and mirrors at play in the “peace” process.

In this article, we consider the various points raised by Ince and Gómez‐Suarez. We begin by addressing six reasons they set out for optimism (optimism for a demobilisation, not for an meaningful agrarian reform or an end to the country’s appalling poverty and inequality). We go on to comment upon the “challenges” to peace that Ince and Gómez‐Suarez identify, alongside the recommendations they make for “balancing” these.

The full article is available for download here [PDF].

The policy briefing by Matt Ince and Andrei Gómez‐Suarez, ‘Ending Colombia’s Internal Conflict: Prospects for Peace with the FARC and Beyond’, is available here.

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