The famous Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges once wrote, “Being Colombian is an act of faith”. After the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (also known by their Spanish initials as FARC), laid down its arms last week as one of the first steps towards implementing the newly signed peace treaty with the Colombian Government, Borges’s phrase has been repeatedly circling in my head.
My country has endured an armed conflict with the FARC since 1964. The peace treaty signifies the end of one of the longest running armed conflicts in the world. The FARC (like many other guerillas) was originally inspired by the Cuban revolution, with Marxist ideologies that progressed over time to terrorist attacks and drug trafficking, without any visible political intent.
A conflict that according to Colombia’s National Historical Memory Center (CMH), has killed 218,000 people and has resulted in a refugee crisis, second only to Syria, where 5.7 million Colombians have reportedly been internally displaced.
After what experts and President Juan Manuel Santos called “a welcomed end to conflict for Colombians”, I wondered: was this it? Finally, at peace? Will my children know a country that me, my mother, and, arguably, my grandmother has never seen without war?
The rhetoric used by Colombia’s media, and even international media, would have led me to believe so. With phrases such as “war ending”, “new era”, and “peace at last” splashed across papers and newscasts, and with our own President, winning the Nobel Peace Prize this year, Colombians have been led to believe that we will finally live a life without fear.
However, let us not forget the facts that are hidden away by the speeches that the Government and media have used where conflict has only been associated with the FARC. Let us not forget that the guerrilla group is not the only rebel assembly seen in our tropical, drug induced country. Let us not forget about the National Liberation Army (ELN), Popular Liberation Army (EPL), or the many criminally emerging bands.
Faithful believers of Santos’ presidency, as well as Colombians who have been manipulated by the blind eyed dialogue, would argue that similar talks have started with the second largest rebel group, the ELN; that the first agreement with the FARC, and the beginning of a second one with the ELN is proof of a changing mentality in the nation, one that is clearly headed towards a better future.
Yet, here, we Colombians, diverge again into talking about acts of faith and a future of hope. As Colombians, we are swayed into believing that we are guided towards a better future. Believing in peace in Colombia is like any religion; praying to a God you never see, yet still expecting your prayer to be answered.
As with religion, these prayers are repeatedly left unattended or even completely diminished. We fear for the lives of close ones when we hear about bombs killing people, like the one that struck Bogota this past June killing 3 civilians. An attack that was supposedly executed by a newly created urban guerilla: People’s Revolutionary Movement.
We, Colombians, don’t even have to point fingers at these groups to prove that our nation is as far away from peace as it has always been. We only have to turn around and look at our own Government to understand this; it possesses unclear ties to paramilitary groups who have caused great pain to the nation with acts similar to those of the FARC.
Even though the peace agreement with the FARC does lay the groundwork, a first, for what could be a fruitful future, there is much arduous work ahead. We are a country that, from any angle, is unfortunately submersed in violence. The FARC is simply one of the many actors in this scenario.
Furthermore, what pains me, personally, is how violence is not even the main problem of my nation. Issues including lack of education, governmental corruption, the complete abandonment of rural areas, and the tendency to have patronage dictating who the representative leaders are: This, in my opinion, are the roots of violence and issues that should be tackled first.
Without resolving these, there will be no “peace”. There will be no real solution to the violent conflicts and actors will continue to emerge as long as the causes continue to exist. What we now have is the simple elimination (to some extent) of one of the main actors of the conflict, a positive step, but nothing else.