Can the End of War Mean the Beginning of Peace in Colombia?

Millones de colombianos marchan por la liberación de los secuestrados por las FARC y el Ejército de Liberación Nacional. Fotografía tomada de Wikipedia Commons, publicada bajo licencia Creative Commons.

Millions of Colombians march for the liberation of those kidnapped and held captive by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the National Liberation Army. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

An End to Armed Warfare

Midnight on August 29 marked the beginning of the end for a war that's raged for more than half a century between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla movement.

With a consensus on both sides, after four years at the negotiating table on neutral ground in Havana, Colombia finally has a definitive bilateral ceasefire. This momentous occasion came after the historic “last day of the war,” as the government is calling it, on August 23, and a formal presentation of the final agreement on August 24.

On his Instagram account, Colombia's president asked, “How does it feel now to hear us say #AdiósALaGuerra [#GoodbyeToTheWar]?” The question was accompanied by an image that included a quote modeled on García Márquez‘ famous last line of One Hundred Years of Solitude: “And that everything written on the peace process was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to fifty years of war could have a second opportunity on earth.”

Con emoción vivimos el #CeseAlFuegoDefinitivo entre el Gobierno y las Farc. ¿Qué sientes ahora que decimos #AdiósALaGuerra?

A video posted by Presidencia de Colombia (@infopresidencia) on

Reflecting on the moment in history, Facebook user Juan Mosquera wrote:

Esta noche es la última noche de la más horrible historia que no es historia sino tragedia. Esta será la noche más tranquila en décadas y décadas y décadas. El campo, las selvas, los valles que tienen a la luna por única luz, las montañas en las que la naturaleza respira. Allí, donde el campesino despierta cada día de su vida, allí donde los indígenas encuentran hermanos y no discriminación.(…) Es una hora trascendental para todos, estemos donde estemos.

Tonight is the last night of a most terrible story that is not a story, but a tragedy. Tonight will be the calmest night in decades and decades and decades. The countryside, the jungle, and the valleys will have only the moon for light, and the mountains in which nature breathes. There, where the farmers wake every day of their lives, there were the indigenous find themselves among brothers and not discrimination. […] It's a transcending moment for everyone, wherever we are.

The Peace Treaty Is Just the Beginning 

The government has decided to hold a referendum on the agreement it signed with FARC. Next month, on October 2, the nation will vote on the 297-page final agreement.

Twitter user Andrés Charry is in favor of the peace deal:

Peace is with you but starts with me! What a great step for peace presented to the country today on the day of the #CeseAlFuegoDefinitivo [Definitive Ceasefire]?

Tymothy Gómez argued that a no vote is particularly revealing:

#VotoNo [Vote No] is in line with believers in homophobia, racism, discrimination and xenophobia, God save us from your hatred and madness #SiALaPaz [Yes to Peace]

Meanwhile Dara-San shared a similar sentiment:

Know that the majority who say “#VotoNo” [Vote No] are those who don't know what the pain caused by the war is, in other words, those from the cities and uribistas [followers of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who leads those against the peace treaty]

On Facebook, Soy Colombiano (“I am Colombian”) wrote:

Prefiero equivocarme apoyando la paz, que acertar impulsando la guerra.

I'd prefer to be wrong supporting peace, than be right encouraging the war.

Twitter user Gustavo Bolívar declared:

#SoyDefensorDeLaPaz [I'm a Defender of Peace] because Colombia spends more money on weapons than on education and I want this travesty reversed.

Despierta Colombia (“Wake up Colombia”), on the other hand, displayed its reasons for opposing the peace agreement:

@urosarionews#NoEsPazEsComunismo [It's Not Peace It's Communism] STOP CALLING NARCO CRIMINAL AGREEMENTS AS PEACE SANTOS-CASTRO!! #VotoNO [Vote No]

Adding a touch of humor to the discussion, Daniela Huertas suggested that people should be allowed to default on their student loans, if FARC can be pardoned.

They should also pardon the debt some of us have with icetex #SoyDefensorDeLaPaz [I'm a Defender of Peace]

And finally, Félix de Bedout posted:

There's no such thing as perfect peace, but neither do I know what kind of war it really is. After 52 years of war, is it not worth the effort of trying something different?

Reconciliation and Forgiveness

Social media and the country's mainstream news media have revealed that Colombian society is polarized when it comes to opinions about the peace agreement with FARC. The biggest challenges seem to be finding the willingness to forgive and reconcile. On this subject, Lorenna C. Lehmann O wrote on her blog:

Hablar de Perdón en Colombia en un posible Proceso de Paz exitoso es muy complicado, pues el conflicto armado en el país lleva muchos años y además de eso lleva consigo muchas víctimas; y cuando se habla de víctimas no solo se habla de muertes, si no de desplazamiento forzoso, de secuestros, de mutilaciones, de violaciones y sufrimientos familiares. Es por esto, que el perdón no será un tema fácil de tratar, pero sin él, no es posible conseguir una aceptación del posible Acuerdo de Paz.

To speak of forgiveness in Colombia over a possible successful peace process is very complicated, as the country has experienced an armed conflict over many years that's created many victims. And when we talk about victims, we're not only talking about deaths, but also about forced displacements, kidnappings, mutilations, rapes, and family suffering. It because of this that forgiveness will not be a theme easily treated or resolved, but without it, it's not possible to achieve the unanimous acceptance of the possible peace agreement.

As the debate continues, you can follow the conversation using the hashtags: #AdiósALaGuerra (Goodbye to The War), #VotoNo (Vote No), #PazColombia (Peace Colombia), and #SoyDefensorDeLaPaz (I am a Defender or Peace), among others. For now, all eyes turn to the vote on October 2.

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