TODAY COLOMBIA – Colombia’s congress has laid down conditions for the “concentration zones” where FARC guerrillas will demobilize in the event of a peace deal, which include plans to separate the rebels from their main criminal interests that could have serious implications for the country’s underworld.
Colombia’s Senate and House of Representatives passed reforms to the country’s Public Order Law that grant President Juan Manuel Santos the power to create areas where guerrilla fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) will gather to turn in their arms and begin their reintegration into civilian life after a final peace deal is signed.
The agreement lays down seven criteria that must be met for such zones, reported El Espectador. These include broad conditions regarding the size and number of zones and how monitoring of disarmament will take place. The criteria also include more specific provisions that the zones must not be in areas where there are coca crops or illegal mining activity or in border areas.
The agreement was struck between the government’s congressional bloc and the main opposition bloc headed by ex-President Alvaro Uribe, who led negotiations despite being Colombia’s loudest voice against the peace process.
“For us, the rush is not to sign a peace agreement but to put a stop to [the FARC’s] crimes,” said Uribe.
Despite the progress made on disarmament, President Santos addressed growing doubts that a final deal will be signed by the March 23 deadline established last October, saying that if there is no agreement by that date, negotiators will simply push back the deadline, reported El Colombiano.
The FARC have been in formal peace negotations with the government since November 2012.
InSight Crime Analysis
The decision to ensure concentration zones for a FARC demobilization that are far removed from the criminal activities with which the rebels fund themselves is likely motivated by several factors. The government is attempting to ensure a swift and complete break between the FARC and their primary criminal revenue streams, while also bringing on board the Uribe-led opposition, who have long professed that ending the FARC’s involvement in criminal activity is their priority.
However, it will mean local FARC units will be faced with a stark and sudden choice: abandon their lucrative criminal interests and comply with the peace process or refuse to assemble in the zones and continue to run their criminal activities, either as breakaway revolutionaries or as purely criminal groups.
In addition, there is the possibility that some FARC units or members will later return to their coca or mining interests after becoming disillusioned with the process, which in itself could be problematic. The demobilization process is unlikely to be quick, giving other armed groups such as the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) or the criminalized paramilitaries of the Urabeños an opportunity to move in on the criminal territories vacated by the FARC. In this scenario, FARC units looking to reclaim their interests would likely be faced with two options: either sign up with the rival groups or attempt to fight them off.