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Research Report

Made in Havana:: How Colombia and the FARC Decided to End the War

Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2017
Pages: 39

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. i-i)
  2. (pp. ii-ii)
  3. (pp. iii-iii)
  4. (pp. 1-1)
  5. (pp. 2-4)

    The government of Colombia and the biggest guerrilla group in the country, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), signed a final peace agreement on November 24, 2016.¹ This accord put an end to the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere (over fifty years) and to long and convoluted peace talks.² The process had three distinct phases: (1) initial clandestine talks between envoys of the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC-EP representatives at the border with Venezuela that started in the spring of 2011; (2) secret negotiations that took place in Havana, Cuba, and...

  6. (pp. 5-8)

    Colombia has been at war since the 1940s, when the two main political parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, engaged in a civil war known as La Violencia, which resulted in 200,000 people being killed. The power struggle between these two parties intensified after the assassination of the populist leader of the Liberal Party, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, in April 1948. While the Conservative government of the time used the state apparatus to persecute them, Liberals organized into selfdefense groups.11 A partisan pact known as the National Front was effective in stopping the violence by creating an extensive model of power sharing....

  7. (pp. 9-18)

    It would take almost a decade after the end of the El Caguán talks for conditions to be ripe for President Santos to successfully engage with the FARC-EP in negotiations; in fact, many say it was during that decade that the necessary conditions for a peace process were created.30 The first of these conditions was, in the words of Daniel García-Peña, Colombia’s former high commissioner for peace, that “the dialogue in Havana took place between two losers.”31

    The debacle of El Caguán was the decisive force behind the triumph of President Uribe (2002– 2010) and the immense popularity of his...

  8. (pp. 18-24)

    The UN team understood that its role in the technical subcommission was to provide technical support with a political vision.90 It was also well aware that both parties had significant reservations vis-à-vis the UN; the Colombian government is no exception to the long Latin American tradition of emphasizing sovereign independence, and many still resented the UN because of its role in the El Caguán peace process. There was also still some resistance to what is perceived as international intervention after the widespread discussion in international circles (in the early 2000s) regarding whether Colombia was a “failed state.”91 The widespread discussion...

  9. (pp. 24-26)

    Those supporting negotiation processes often contemplate bringing in external expertise to advise either both or one of the parties at the table. Norway brought around 150 advisers to the table in the course of the four years of the public negotiations. The government worked closely with international experts on peace processes from the secret phase through to the end of the process: Shlomo Ben-Ami (Israel), Dudley Ankerson (UK), Jonathan Powell (UK), William Ury (US), and Joaquín Villalobos (El Salvador). These experts initially met in Bogotá to share lessons, approaches, and experiences from other peace processes around the world. They offered...

  10. (pp. 26-31)

    There were three decisions made by the government that were particularly influential in the way the peace process developed and how Colombian society perceived it: (1) to proceed with dialogue in the midst of the war; (2) to have limited participation of civil society during the talks; and (3) to bring the result of the talks to a popular vote through a plebiscite.

    The negotiations were conducted from the outset without a bilateral cease-fire between the government and the FARC-EP. This was a deliberate choice by the government, which had several motivations. First, it was concerned that the FARCEP might...

  11. (pp. 31-34)

    Was the Havana peace process successful? This paper argues that, in spite of the political blow that came with the result of the plebiscite, the process was indeed successful in that it managed to achieve its main goal: to convince the FARC-EP to voluntarily set aside its weapons and start the transition to becoming a political party. This was not a foregone conclusion: even if the FARC-EP had demonstrated strong political commitment to the negotiations—especially by continuing with the process after the armed forces killed its commander, Alfonso Cano—it was very hesitant to disarm. A long history of...

  12. (pp. 35-35)