snapshots

Colombia: Duque Limits the Chances of Future Peace Deals With Militants

3 MINS READJul 17, 2019 | 20:15 GMT
The Big Picture

Though Bogota reached a landmark peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, other militant groups remain active in the South American country. Since taking office, Colombian President Ivan Duque has sought to institute legal hurdles to any future negotiated deals with Colombia's remaining militant groups, the largest of which are the National Liberation Army, Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces and the Popular Liberation Army. This harder line could trigger a militant backlash.

What Happened

Colombian President Ivan Duque signed a constitutional amendment on July 16 that prevents kidnapping and drug trafficking from being considered political crimes, making those who have committed such crimes or in any way financed or supported them ineligible for future amnesties or pardons. 

The amendment is the latest in a series of efforts by the Duque administration to place legal and political roadblocks in the path of future peace deals with militants. In January, the government broke off talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) following the bombing of a police academy, and in February, it formally classified the ELN, the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces and the Popular Liberation Army as criminal groups; this stripped the ELN of the recognition as a political group that it had enjoyed since 1997. 

Why It Matters

Duque and others opposed to a peace plan would prefer to solve the militant problem militarily, and at the very least, see militant leaders receive prison sentences rather than the amnesties and special legal proceedings FARC members have received under the peace deal it signed with Bogota, known as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. Unable to kill the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) peace deal, he has now succeeded at tying future Colombian governments' hands when it comes to negotiating peace deals like the one with the FARC. This is because the majority of Colombia's present militant groups have engaged in kidnapping and drug dealing as profit-making enterprises — and militants will be less willing to lay down their arms in the absence of promises of leniency.

With talks less likely to bear fruit, militant groups may view renewed violence as their best avenue for extracting government concessions. 

Though a future administration could theoretically circumvent or attempt to repeal the amendment, this would require a significant shift in political will, which has hardened against the militants since the FARC deal went through. Any party that sought to overturn the amendment would open itself up to charges of surrendering to gangsters. But with talks less likely to bear fruit, militant groups may view renewed violence as their best avenue for extracting government concessions. 

Background

Duque won elections in 2018 on a platform of taking a hard line on FARC and the remaining Colombian militant groups, promising to modify the FARC peace deal to make it harder for militants to claim amnesty for drug trafficking. Under the terms of the deal, FARC was allowed to disarm, enter demobilization zones and receive a guaranteed 10 seats in Congress if it submitted to proceedings under the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which would offer more lenient sentences than regular courts. Duque's government has remained highly critical of the deal, and aggressively prosecuted FARC members who it alleges committed crimes outside the scope of the amnesty.

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