First, some background: Colombia's armed conflict is the longest running in Latin America and, some say, the world. The Marxist guerrillas and the Colombian government started a peace process two years ago. They agreed on a deadline for a final peace accord: March 23, 2016. Such deadline, proclaimed by the country's president in the past United Nations General Assembly, was not met. Instead, a profound debate about how to achieve peace has dived Colombians further.
Polarization inevitably became a trademark for Colombia's upcoming peace deal. Sadly, and maybe unavoidably, political differences between the country's leaders obscured the mere fact that peace between State and rebels might actually be signed this very same month. Such, one might say, is the Colombian way.
Pessimism stalked peace negotiators right before the original deadline agreed by both government and guerrillas for signing the final peace accord. The deadline was Wednesday March 23rd. The actual date may or may not have a meaning; being given that even Barack Obama planned his historic trip to Cuba on the same week. But, the true connotation and impact of these missteps rely on the cloud of doubt that overshadows the country's view of a future sans political violence.
The first reason for doubt is based on obscurity. In particular, lack of knowledge on what was actually negotiated and what favors/pardons might have been promised to the FARC guerrillas, a group that has used terrorist tactics (with prolonged Human Rights violations) but has also been subject to historical deceit by the establishment. The FARC say that Colombia's political class and its Armed Forces are to blame as well. This is accurate in some cases, particularly on corruption within armed forces and their history with false positive killings. Impunity in private sector corruption cases is also part of this lack of trust.
Yes, there has to be accountability for FARC's crimes. Yes, they have to give in their weapons. Yes, justice and peace have to equally prevail. The specifics on how to get this are not clear to anyone, yet. Timing is key. This is why a second reason for doubting this peace's solidity is the country's financial situation. Colombia's leadership in a weak emerging market environment is also under threat. Since both national production and financial disparity directly affect the country's stability, all eyes are on the once acclaimed Finance Minister. He, a brilliant mind, now faces at least two different investigations: one from the Attorney General´s Office and one from the Comptroller's Office. All based on his efforts as Minister to navigate Colombia's promising economy in a 30usd-oil-barrel world. In this sense, 2015 was rough and 2016 is uncertain.
The list of reasons for being a pessimist expands: There isn't a public strategy clarifying that mistakes committed in past peace efforts with armed paramilitary groups wont happen again in this case. The second largest guerrilla, ELN, is still on the move. Cocaine production is up again.
Despite all this, Colombia's national conversation now tries to resemble public opinion debates in most modern democracies, where governments use their interpretation of official data to show how much a country prospers with their leadership while opposition leaders exacerbate this country's current weaknesses. The difference is that peace has come to be a victim of this dichotomy. The one thing that could and should unite the entire country now finds itself entangled in a political and bloody divide that, summed to a weak institutional public system, is fueling discontent lead by former-President-turned-Senator Alvaro Uribe.
Little eye does the international community give to such threats. A majority of ally nations (or at least the countries interested in Colombia's reconciliation) see Colombia's process in a positive way. The United Nation's Security Council is now taking part in the implementation of a would-be peace accord. Barack Obama celebrated 15 years of systematic aid to Colombia with sweet words for its results. His National Security Advisor (and former Ambassador to UN) Susan Rice recently said that "Colombia today is more stable, secure, and prosperous than it has been for decades". The European Union is confident about the timings in the process. And the UN's Secretary General, who recently appointed a Special Mission on the subject, wrote an Op-Ed for Colombia's largest newspaper in a very positive tone. And sponsor countries for the peace process have not stopped working continually on it for the more than two years it has lasted.
National campaigns are now being planned to support or defeat the final accord in a national vote, proposed by Santos himself. This process will prove that Colombia's polarization will be more similar to the type of polarization seen across the globe, hopefully less race-based than the one in the United States, but definitely less bloody than the one lived in the South American country for the past century.
A wise saying, translated from Spanish, reads: "dirty laundry is washed in doors". That applies to many situations, where shame is involved. Robert Drinan wrote that shame and outrage prompt people to defend Human Rights. In this case, Colombia is showing its dirty laundry to the globe, while at the same time trying to prove its worth and value as a country; divided like most, violently divided like few, but making a valid and finally realistic effort to grow out of such a shameful past.