Colombia's road to peace: an interim assessment

The peace treaty and the disarmament of the FARC

Just over a year has passed since the peace treaty between Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos and Farc boss Rodrigo "Timochenko" Londoño came into force.

The disarmament of the FARC rebels, part of the peace agreement, was completed in the summer (we reported: "FARC rebels gave up all their weapons").

Lower murder rates and more tourism

The disarmament of the approximately 7,000 former rebels is fundamentally a sound precondition for more peace in the country. The FARC is or was one of Colombia's largest terrorist organisations. According to the NZZ, Colombia has now reached its lowest murder rate since the 1970s.
Tourism has set new records for hotel occupancy and is attracting new investors.
Direct reports from the Horyzon program put these figures into perspective. The violence would have increased much more in the newly contested areas and also in the poor districts of the cities. Human rights representatives in particular are increasingly being threatened and killed.

New rebel groups and the cocaine trade on the rise

Progress for a peaceful country is still restrained. The peace agreement was by no means a unanimous affair. In addition to the fact that the people were no longer asked to approve the final peace treaty, around 1000 former FARC members have decided against the agreement. Many of them may have joined smaller rebel groups. One reason for this may be to be found in the transition camps. They are remote and make the (re)integration of the former rebels more difficult, as well as the infrastructure promised by the government, but still lacking. Another reason might be the cocaine business. In regions where the FARC has ruled over trade, new contested income areas are now emerging for the smaller rebel groups.

The state is now called upon to tackle the roots of violence in its country. The coca plantations must be destroyed in order to combat organised crime effectively. On the other hand, the farmers must be given a new future. They will not voluntarily destroy their plantations, as they often have no alternatives. Well-traveled and safe transport routes must be a priority for the state in order to enable the transition to legal products.

There is still a long way to peace for Colombia. But the first step has been taken.