Yesterday, Andrés París, FARC spokesman in Havana, said the magic words toevaporate the illusion that has been growing around the peace process: he saidthat no weapons would be handed over. “The weapons are muted when thecommand to shoot them will cease, and that will happen in Colombia when with allthese situations that we are bringing to the negotiating table are accomplished,” hesaid to an interview with El País of Cali.

The current round of discussions in Havana has been more difficult than theprevious one. It is not only the discussion of the Constituent Assembly that theguerrillas want in order to endorse the agreements but now comes the debateabout when they would surrender their weapons

Yesterday, Andrés París, FARC spokesman in Havana, said the magic words toevaporate the illusion that has been growing around the peace process: he saidthat no weapons would be handed over. “The weapons are muted when thecommand to shoot them will cease, and that will happen in Colombia when with allthese situations that we are bringing to the negotiating table are accomplished,” hesaid to an interview with El País of Cali.

Clarifying that their model of negotiation was that of Northern Ireland, where therewas never an arms surrender although the armed conflict ceased, Paris reiteratedwhat Iván Márquez had already said in his inauguration speech of the dialogs inOslo, in recalling the words of Alfonso Cano: “demobilizing is synonymous withinertia, it’s a cowardly handing over, it’s surrender and treason to the popular causeand the revolutionary ideology that we breed and fight for social transformations”.

Noticeably, it is a different position to which what the Government negotiators haveexpressed. In his speech at the Externado University in May, in which the HighPeace Commissioner explained, “the mental path” of the peace process, SergioJaramillo was explicit that the surrender of weapons was a nonnegotiable conditionfor progress in the third phase of construction of the peace.

“It is a question of agreeing to an agenda for the completion of the conflict to allowthe Farc expose their ideas without the accompaniment of the weapons, and withfull guarantees for its transformation into a disarmed political force”, said Jaramillo.And he added: ‘peace is not about receiving a rifle to deliver a taxi or a bakery. Thisis, I repeat, to remove the weapons out of the way to be able to transform a fewterritories and to reconstruct the social pact in the regions. It is to ensure that wedo not have war again.”

Jaramillo thus explained how it was understood what has been agreed with theFARC in the framework of the Peace Agreement negotiated by him and ‘The Doctor’,on behalf of the guerrillas, during the exploratory phase of this process, and thatdetermines the agenda for the talks in Havana.

In point 3 of this Agreement, on the end of the conflict, the Agreement says that itis “a simultaneous and integral process”, which implies a ceasefire and an end tohostilities bilateral and definitive and, as point two, “the surrender of weapons.There is reinstatement of the Farc-Ep to civilian life in the economic, social andpolitical, in accordance with their interests”.

At that precise point, the Government is committed to carry out the reforms of thespeaking París: “the Government will review and make reforms and the institutionaladjustments necessary to meet the challenges of the construction of peace”.

The sequence
Humberto de la Calle has chosen to defend in writing his position at the NegotiatingTable. The weekly magazine Semana gave him its cover to explain why thegovernment would not accept a Constituent Assembly. He left out one of thearguments that matter most to Santos: because it would be to open the door forUribe to return to the presidency.
Andres Paris, the spokesperson of the FARC in Havana, said in an interview with ElPaís, from Cali, that their model of negotiation is to Northern Ireland, to a greatextent, because they did not surrender the weapons.
“Government will have no arms surrender photo”, said Paris, in his interview.Rituals such as this of the delivery of arms of the paramilitaries usually mark in thecollective imagination, a before and after the conflict.

After reading the interview of Paris and the things that Iván Márquez has said, it isclear that they will not give the Government (and the country) the delight to seethem lay down their weapons, a ritual that usually symbolizes in all these processesin a clear, beautiful and impressive way, the end of the armed conflict and thebeginning of a transition.

This position corresponds to an idea that for them is essential and it is that they arenot going to “reintegrate” into Colombian society – whose establishment they see ascorrupt and unfair – but instead through this process of negotiation they seek to”transform” that society.

Somehow, this idea of the transformation is built into the same design of theprocess that is being discussed in Havana. The idea of these discussions is not tonegotiate what is to be delivered to the Farc in exchange for weapons, but theconditions that must be created so that neither they nor anyone else feel thatweapons are needed to do politics in Colombia or to be treated with a minimum of respect and dignity on the countryside.

The first point already partially agreed on integrated rural development aimed todefine the basic things that the State has to do so the peasants are not third-classcitizens. And the political participation that is now being discussed seeks to identifythe system’s barriers which hinder a real democratic participation of minorities whowant to make opposition to the Establishment.

As a result of the discussion on these two points, there will be a large list of reformsto do. On the agreement of the matter of agriculture, among others, there is thecommitment to create an agrarian justice, to give land ownership to the peasants,to bring infrastructure and education to the countryside. On the political frontagreement, surely there will be reforms of electoral type, a statute for theopposition, guarantees for access to the media, etc.

What Andrés París is saying is that they will keep the weapons until theGovernment undertakes all these reforms. The government has said that thesereforms, which have a territorial axis, will be made with the FARC. But for the rightto participate and even lead these changes they will earn once they have given upthe arms.

In the end, the disagreement between Government and FARC regarding theweapons is in the sequence of events. It is a difference which is not minor.

The simultaneousness

The hard fact is that the Agreement says that the surrender of weapons and theimplementation of reforms and institutional adjustments will be “simultaneous”, thefirst one takes a few hours while the second years.

In the interview given to La Silla the former guerrilla leader of the FMLN, theSalvadoran guerrilla, Joaquin Villalobos, explained it well: “In themes with socialimpact, the start of the program or the constitution of an institution or participationin an institution is the proof that it was complied that matters. It is not achievingthe goal. If it is not like that, it’s a letter to Baby Jesus. The initiation of theseprocesses is the fulfillment of the agreement,” he said.

Following this logic, it would be sufficient for the Government to take out the decreecreating the agrarian justice or the Conpes by agreeing to a mega investment in thecountryside. But it is unlikely that the FARC will be willing to understand it as such.

The Farc will want to retain the weapons because the mistrust of the guerrillamovement toward the Establishment is as large as that of the majority of Colombians to the FARC. Antecedent facts as the extradition of the paramilitaryheads after the negotiation of Ralito or the extermination of the UP have donenothing but feed them.

However, the same tragedy of the Patriotic Union (UP) makes it unfeasible for themto participate in the construction of this “new rural country” with the weapons.Weapons and politics are a lethal combination.  

In any case, in the Framework Agreement was explicit that there are guarantees tobe created so the transition takes place without them being killed. And if agreements reached, more than benefit to the guerrilla commanders will improvethe conditions of millions of Colombians, in like manner society will be responsiblefor ensuring that they are not ripped off.

“All peace processes successful in the world lead to a transformation of armedgroups into political movements; that is precisely the transformation of a conflict.And the basis of this transformation are the guarantees,” Jaramillo said in hisspeech. “Guarantees for the groups: that they can participate on an equal footingand without security risks; and guarantees for society: that is to break forever thelink between politics and weapons [ … ] “. 

If the Farc are not willing to assume the risk of breaking the bond prior tosubmitting the Agreement to the endorsement of the Colombians, they will give thecritics of this peace process the best weapon to downplay any legitimacy.


Soy la directora, fundadora y dueña mayoritaria de La Silla Vacía. Estudié derecho en la Universidad de los Andes y realicé una maestría en periodismo en la Universidad de Columbia en Nueva York. Trabajé como periodista en The Wall Street Journal Americas, El Tiempo y Semana y lideré la creación...