BOGOTÁ – The Framework Agreement for the End of the Armed Conflict in Colombia that has just been announced by President Juan Manuel Santos is a historic landmark for his country and all of Latin America. It is also a tribute to diplomatic resourcefulness and negotiating skill.
The agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC, came after long years of failed attempts by Colombian governments of all political shades to reach an accommodation with the last, and among the most odious, guerrilla movement to have operated in Latin America. Never before has the FARC – a monumental apparatus of terror, mass murder, and drug trafficking – agreed to discuss disarmament, its fighters’ social and political reintegration, victims’ rights, an end to drug production, and participation in “truth and responsibility” commissions to examine the crimes committed during a half-century of conflict. But now it has.
This momentous shift reflects the decimation of the FARC following long years of struggle, the resilience of Colombian society, and, perhaps most important, Santos’s brilliant regional policy. By weakening the so-called Bolivarian Axis (Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia), the FARC guerrillas were left without a supportive regional environment.
As with peace processes in the Middle East and Central America following the Cold War’s end, regional changes created the conditions for the start of the Colombian process. But, in the Middle East and Central America, external actors – the United States and the Soviet Union – produced the change; in the case of the Colombian process, the change came from within.