.
In 1981, Margaret Thatcher said the following: “…consensus seems to be the process of abandoning beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something which no one believes, but to which no one objects.” Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos banked his presidency and legacy on packaging a consensus agreement with the FARC and hoping the Colombian people would vote in favor of peace. Obviously, it failed, despite polls and experts predicting an easy win, eerily similar as Brexit and the recent historical upset by President elect Trump. One thing must be said though, no one in Colombia objects to the notion of achieving real and everlasting peace, but Colombians on the other hand truly did not believe that the terms of the peace agreement with the FARC were stringent enough-or more importantly-satisfied the eye test of justice being served to the narco-terrorists known as the FARC. But President Santos wrongly calculated that Colombians would okay a unilateral deal that had no teeth and no muscle in terms of being a fair and balanced peace agreement. As such, on October 2, 2016, Colombians grasped animal of democracy by the horns and voted NO towards the peace agreement. Now that the dust has settled, it is important that we objectively understand what happened, and assess why did Colombians vote against an agreement that would have ended the region’s longest running war. The NO vote was a shock to many, but not for Colombians. There is a popular saying in Colombia, Nosotros no comemos cuento; which means literally that we (Colombians) do not eat tales. The 297-page peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian government was a nightmare tale that almost became a reality if it were not for the Colombian citizenry. To start off, allowing the peace talks to be held in Cuba was a huge mistake. When it comes to negotiation, the party that has leverage tends to determine where the peace talks take place; either at a place that is more advantageous for the party of leverage or a neutral site, assuming the stronger party wants to exert a good faith effort towards reconciliation or an agreement. Quick side note, former President Uribe, predecessor to President Santos, made it a priority during his presidency to aggressively attack and weaken the FARC, rendering the terrorist organization to a state of weakness unprecedented in Colombian history. What I am trying to say is that the Colombian government had and still does obtain the leverage. Yet quite confusingly, President Santos allowed the peace talks to commence in Cuba, home of one of the most draconian communist dictators in Latin American history-the Castro brothers. Moreover, besides Norway and Cuba being guarantors of the peace deal, Chile and Venezuela were sponsors. The problem is not Chile, but more so Venezuela. This is the same Venezuela that is stripping away the institutions of democracy, violating human rights, imprisoning political opponents and impoverishing their own people. Interesting stamp of approval, wouldn’t you say? Well, Colombians had no intentions of going down that rabbit hole. Secondly, one of the most vital concerns Colombians couldn’t reconcile was the folly that FARC guerillas were to evade justice if the negotiated peace agreement were to have been approved. No jail time would have been served. Not to get into much detail who the FARC is, but one cannot deny that they have committed many horrific violence acts against the Colombian citizens. In 2002, they were the perpetrators of the Bojaya massacre, killing 119 civilians. In 2003, the FARC bombed El Nogal nightclub in Bogota, killing 36 civilians. In 2007, the FARC killed 11 provincial deputies that were kidnapped in 2002. Just recently in 2014, the Human Rights Watch said that the FARC guerillas are committing abuses with impunity. Oh by the way, the abuses the Human Rights Watch we’re referring to are killings, disappearances, kidnappings, sexual violence and forced displacement. In 2015, former President Uribe told an audience in Miami the contradiction of the international media’s acceptance and encouragement of the Colombian peace process that is devoid of incarceration for the perpetrators of terrorist activity; he said “It is a lack of respect to place FARC and the armed forces as equal political actors. Members of the ETA (the Basque nationalist and separatist group in norther Spain) went to jail. Why then does Spain want to support FARC with impunity? This country (United States) would not give impunity to al-Qaeda.” Mr. Uribe is right. More than 400 ETA members are imprisoned. However, Colombia is just asking for the FARC leaders to serve time behind bars, not 400 members. Despite committing these atrocities and not being given any jail time, the Colombian people were expected to vote “YES” on a deal that would have given unelected congressional seats to the FARC. Colombia happens to be the longest standing democracy in Latin America and by no means were they ready to backshift the gears of democracy by allowing congressional seats be given to the FARC without proper elections! Yes, that’s right, leaders of the FARC would be entitled to Congressional seats without having to go through an election process. Can you imagine if the U.S. were to give the KKK congressional seats because we wanted to desperately end racism? It would be absurd and mind-boggling. Colombia said “NO” to a false peace that would have empowered and legitimized a terrorist group (The FARC was considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department until 2014) that from 1996 to 2005, kidnapped on average a Colombian every eight hours. Yet somehow these facts were overlooked not only by President Santos, but by the U.S. media. For example, the New York Times published an article titled “Colombia’s peace deal is defeated, leaving a nation in shock.” Interesting assertion after more “NO” votes were tallied rather than “YES”-albeit by a razor thin margin. But the consensus-there’s that word again-was that the “YES” vote would win by an overwhelming margin. Moreover, many “NO” votes were not placed due to the notion that it would have been wasted time since it was a presupposed fact that the “YES” vote would win. The power of the media cannot still be overstated. The U.S. News wrote two days after the “NO” vote that “Colombia voters made a mistake by rejecting a long sought peace deal.” Really? Does the U.S. News know more about Colombians than actual Colombians that live there and understand the complexities of its’ history, culture, politics, and economy. Lastly, The USA Today reacted by saying Colombians rejected a historic peace deal. I don’t think many advocates of women rights, women equality and female empowerment would have viewed it so historic, especially due to thousands of Colombian women who suffered gender violence and sexual assault during the armed conflict. Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’ Grady effectively underscored the gap between the “NO” vote and the media and popular political opinion; “Worse, Colombians remain under pressure from inside and outside the country to accommodate the unrepentant war criminals, who have pledged to spend ‘not even one day in jail.’ Norway, which was one of the guarantors of the deal brokered by Cuba, is especially sore about the vote by the upstart Colombians. Ergo, the preposterous decision to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Santos…(October 7, 2016). Perfect.” Although Colombians are proud of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to their president, most realize that there is a whiff of international politics embodying the award. Luckily for Colombia and Colombians, they are not influenced by the globalization, cosmopolitanism and elitism. Colombians want peace, I want peace for Colombia, but not at any arbitrary price. The FARC stained Colombia for many years; it came close to decapitating Colombia as a ‘failed state’. Now the tables have turned and Colombians are not going to risk their safety and security for a feel-good agreement or to placate the international consensus. They want justice. It is a natural want. A want that is bestowed on us Americans through the U.S. Constitution. Well then, isn’t fair that Colombians aspire to the same human right, even though it may take longer than the international arena desires. I think that would be a tale that Colombians would enjoy reading or as Colombians say, eating with fork and knife.

About
Oscar Montealegre
:
Oscar Montealaegre is Diplomatic Courier’s Latin America Correspondent and the Founder of Kensington Eagle, an investment firm that specializes in private companies and real estate in the U.S. and Colombia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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The 2nd Biggest Surprise of 2016

November 15, 2016

In 1981, Margaret Thatcher said the following: “…consensus seems to be the process of abandoning beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something which no one believes, but to which no one objects.” Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos banked his presidency and legacy on packaging a consensus agreement with the FARC and hoping the Colombian people would vote in favor of peace. Obviously, it failed, despite polls and experts predicting an easy win, eerily similar as Brexit and the recent historical upset by President elect Trump. One thing must be said though, no one in Colombia objects to the notion of achieving real and everlasting peace, but Colombians on the other hand truly did not believe that the terms of the peace agreement with the FARC were stringent enough-or more importantly-satisfied the eye test of justice being served to the narco-terrorists known as the FARC. But President Santos wrongly calculated that Colombians would okay a unilateral deal that had no teeth and no muscle in terms of being a fair and balanced peace agreement. As such, on October 2, 2016, Colombians grasped animal of democracy by the horns and voted NO towards the peace agreement. Now that the dust has settled, it is important that we objectively understand what happened, and assess why did Colombians vote against an agreement that would have ended the region’s longest running war. The NO vote was a shock to many, but not for Colombians. There is a popular saying in Colombia, Nosotros no comemos cuento; which means literally that we (Colombians) do not eat tales. The 297-page peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian government was a nightmare tale that almost became a reality if it were not for the Colombian citizenry. To start off, allowing the peace talks to be held in Cuba was a huge mistake. When it comes to negotiation, the party that has leverage tends to determine where the peace talks take place; either at a place that is more advantageous for the party of leverage or a neutral site, assuming the stronger party wants to exert a good faith effort towards reconciliation or an agreement. Quick side note, former President Uribe, predecessor to President Santos, made it a priority during his presidency to aggressively attack and weaken the FARC, rendering the terrorist organization to a state of weakness unprecedented in Colombian history. What I am trying to say is that the Colombian government had and still does obtain the leverage. Yet quite confusingly, President Santos allowed the peace talks to commence in Cuba, home of one of the most draconian communist dictators in Latin American history-the Castro brothers. Moreover, besides Norway and Cuba being guarantors of the peace deal, Chile and Venezuela were sponsors. The problem is not Chile, but more so Venezuela. This is the same Venezuela that is stripping away the institutions of democracy, violating human rights, imprisoning political opponents and impoverishing their own people. Interesting stamp of approval, wouldn’t you say? Well, Colombians had no intentions of going down that rabbit hole. Secondly, one of the most vital concerns Colombians couldn’t reconcile was the folly that FARC guerillas were to evade justice if the negotiated peace agreement were to have been approved. No jail time would have been served. Not to get into much detail who the FARC is, but one cannot deny that they have committed many horrific violence acts against the Colombian citizens. In 2002, they were the perpetrators of the Bojaya massacre, killing 119 civilians. In 2003, the FARC bombed El Nogal nightclub in Bogota, killing 36 civilians. In 2007, the FARC killed 11 provincial deputies that were kidnapped in 2002. Just recently in 2014, the Human Rights Watch said that the FARC guerillas are committing abuses with impunity. Oh by the way, the abuses the Human Rights Watch we’re referring to are killings, disappearances, kidnappings, sexual violence and forced displacement. In 2015, former President Uribe told an audience in Miami the contradiction of the international media’s acceptance and encouragement of the Colombian peace process that is devoid of incarceration for the perpetrators of terrorist activity; he said “It is a lack of respect to place FARC and the armed forces as equal political actors. Members of the ETA (the Basque nationalist and separatist group in norther Spain) went to jail. Why then does Spain want to support FARC with impunity? This country (United States) would not give impunity to al-Qaeda.” Mr. Uribe is right. More than 400 ETA members are imprisoned. However, Colombia is just asking for the FARC leaders to serve time behind bars, not 400 members. Despite committing these atrocities and not being given any jail time, the Colombian people were expected to vote “YES” on a deal that would have given unelected congressional seats to the FARC. Colombia happens to be the longest standing democracy in Latin America and by no means were they ready to backshift the gears of democracy by allowing congressional seats be given to the FARC without proper elections! Yes, that’s right, leaders of the FARC would be entitled to Congressional seats without having to go through an election process. Can you imagine if the U.S. were to give the KKK congressional seats because we wanted to desperately end racism? It would be absurd and mind-boggling. Colombia said “NO” to a false peace that would have empowered and legitimized a terrorist group (The FARC was considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department until 2014) that from 1996 to 2005, kidnapped on average a Colombian every eight hours. Yet somehow these facts were overlooked not only by President Santos, but by the U.S. media. For example, the New York Times published an article titled “Colombia’s peace deal is defeated, leaving a nation in shock.” Interesting assertion after more “NO” votes were tallied rather than “YES”-albeit by a razor thin margin. But the consensus-there’s that word again-was that the “YES” vote would win by an overwhelming margin. Moreover, many “NO” votes were not placed due to the notion that it would have been wasted time since it was a presupposed fact that the “YES” vote would win. The power of the media cannot still be overstated. The U.S. News wrote two days after the “NO” vote that “Colombia voters made a mistake by rejecting a long sought peace deal.” Really? Does the U.S. News know more about Colombians than actual Colombians that live there and understand the complexities of its’ history, culture, politics, and economy. Lastly, The USA Today reacted by saying Colombians rejected a historic peace deal. I don’t think many advocates of women rights, women equality and female empowerment would have viewed it so historic, especially due to thousands of Colombian women who suffered gender violence and sexual assault during the armed conflict. Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’ Grady effectively underscored the gap between the “NO” vote and the media and popular political opinion; “Worse, Colombians remain under pressure from inside and outside the country to accommodate the unrepentant war criminals, who have pledged to spend ‘not even one day in jail.’ Norway, which was one of the guarantors of the deal brokered by Cuba, is especially sore about the vote by the upstart Colombians. Ergo, the preposterous decision to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Santos…(October 7, 2016). Perfect.” Although Colombians are proud of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to their president, most realize that there is a whiff of international politics embodying the award. Luckily for Colombia and Colombians, they are not influenced by the globalization, cosmopolitanism and elitism. Colombians want peace, I want peace for Colombia, but not at any arbitrary price. The FARC stained Colombia for many years; it came close to decapitating Colombia as a ‘failed state’. Now the tables have turned and Colombians are not going to risk their safety and security for a feel-good agreement or to placate the international consensus. They want justice. It is a natural want. A want that is bestowed on us Americans through the U.S. Constitution. Well then, isn’t fair that Colombians aspire to the same human right, even though it may take longer than the international arena desires. I think that would be a tale that Colombians would enjoy reading or as Colombians say, eating with fork and knife.

About
Oscar Montealegre
:
Oscar Montealaegre is Diplomatic Courier’s Latin America Correspondent and the Founder of Kensington Eagle, an investment firm that specializes in private companies and real estate in the U.S. and Colombia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.