Walking the Tightrope: Justice and Peace in the Colombia-FARC Deal

On June 23, 2016, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos emerged from four years of peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a rebel group that had waged a bloody campaign against the government since the 1960s. At a ceremony with the leader of FARC, Santos agreed to a joint ceasefire and a formal peace deal that would be presented to the Colombian people in a referendum. After 52 years, a civil war that had killed nearly a quarter million people was over. 

Leaders from around the world rejoiced at the deal. US Secretary of State John Kerry called it “transformational moment for the Colombian people.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon hailed the negotiations as “an inspiration for all.” Even Evo Morales and Nicolás Maduro, the left-wing leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela who rarely find themselves on the same page as the United States, praised the agreement. International support for the deal came to a peak with that year’s Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to President Santos in recognition of his efforts toward “peace and reconciliation.”

Among the people of Colombia, however, the deal wasn’t met with such universal acclaim. The October 2 referendum, in which Santos had predicted an easy win for the peace deal, narrowly rejected the agreement in a 50.2% to 49.7% vote. Santos renegotiated the agreement with FARC during the month following the referendum, but had learned his lesson. This time he sent the deal to a Congress for approval, eschewing a public vote. Since the referendum, the President’s approval rating has fallen to 24% according to Gallup, a far cry from his 82% approval at the outset of his administration. What explains the gap between international support for the deal and the distrust within Colombia?

Caption: Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, left, shakes hands with FARC Guerrilla Leader Timochenko Jiménez, right, after agreeing to provisions for a peace deal mediated by Cuba President Raúl Castro, 23 Sept. 2015.
The answer to this question isn’t particular to Juan Manuel Santos; it isn’t even specific to the FARC-Colombia conflict. Rather, the tension in Colombia touches on a divide between peace and justice that every country emerging from war must face. When we hear the words “peace” and “justice,” we often think of them as synonyms. However, the two values don’t always overlap, especially when it comes to countries transitioning from armed conflict. We can imagine an unjust peace, where both sides give up arms but no one is punished for their abuses of human rights. We can also imagine a situation in which justice is achieved but peace remains out of reach: A government can punish rebels for rights violations, but the threat of punishment might discourage other rebels from coming to the table. By learning about how Colombia is currently grappling with transitional justice, we can draw lessons about how peace and justice in other parts of the world. 

There are two sides in the peace vs. justice debate. A view often held by human rights activists is that justice is a condition for, rather than an obstacle to, long-term peace. Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch notes that if those who have committed war crimes and human rights abuses aren’t held accountable, peace will not be “sustainable.” The deal will fail to address the underlying problem of impunity, and future violators of human rights will commit crimes without fear of punishment. The opposing view, more often proposed by diplomats and military officials, proposes that an attempt at accountability can backfire and end up prolonging conflict. Jack Snyder of Columbia University and Leslie Vinjamuri of Georgetown University argues that “justice does not lead; it follows.” Amnesty and other strategies may be important steps in achieving an end to conflict, and only after the end of a conflict can institutions become strong enough to hold violators of human rights accountable.

In cases like the Colombian government’s negotiations with FARC, achieving a balance between peace and justice is no easy task. David Tolbert of the International Center for Transitional Justice notes that whenever we evaluate whether to pursue peace or justice in a country emerging from conflict, we should look at the local circumstances and the issues that matter in victims’ daily lives. To understand the divide between those who rejected the peace deal and those who favored it, we have to understand the history of the conflict.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym FARC, formed in 1964 under the leadership of Colombian Communist Party member Manuel Marulanda. FARC’s initial goal was an ideological one, providing services to Marxist communes in southern Colombia, defending their territory against government forces, and calling for less U.S. involvement at the height of the Cold War. In more recent years, FARC members have expressed a variety of motivations for their fight against Bogotá. While some maintain ideological opposition to the Washington-allied central government, a 2003 UN report most fighters join the organization seeking belonging, escape from poverty, or even a “spirit of adventure.” Still others join out of revenge or because they have had relatives who fought.

Caption: Former hostage José Armando Acuña, right, hugs his father after being rescued from FARC captivity, 11 Feb. 2011.
Early in their fight against the Colombian government, FARC turned to kidnapping and extortion for funding. In 1982, FARC decided on a new strategy to finance its war, allowing coca farmers to operate in their territory but highly taxing the cocaine trade. The group, which has been designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization, received international attention for the high-profile kidnapping of Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt in 2002. During her six-year captivity, Betancourt and her fellow captives suffered beatings, deprivation, and sexual abuse before finally being rescued by a Colombian government operation in 2008. 

The human toll of FARC’s decades-long clash with the Colombian government goes far beyond the harm done to kidnapping victims. Government figures put the death toll of the FARC-Colombia conflict at 220,000, more than many estimates of the number of deaths in the 2003 US War in Iraq. The 6.9 million internally displaced persons in Colombia comprised the greatest number of IDPs worldwide in 2016, surpassing those of Syria and Iraq.
Growing up in a country with so many people displaced, kidnapped, and killed, a peace deal that allows militants to reenter politics with impunity looks less like a black-and-white issue than it does from an outsider’s perspective. Over the next few months, I will use this blog to think about the specifics of the FARC peace deal, the reactions of the Colombian people and global stakeholders, and the implications for other conflicts. Colombia’s transition to peace is an enormously important event for those who have been affected by the FARC conflict, but its significance goes beyond borders. For other countries resolving civil conflict, Colombia provides a framework for balancing peace and justice.

The Capacity to Help: Colombia’s Restoration of Land Rights to Internally Displaced Persons

As much as human rights scholars study what obligations governments should have to protect human rights, they rarely give as much attention to an equally important question: Are these states capable of carrying out their responsibilities to their citizens? Colombia’s experience restoring land rights to internally displaced people demonstrates both the value and limitations of the human rights framework. Although the language, institutions, and norms of human rights can guide states’ aspirations, they mean little if the state lacks the capacity to honor its obligations. In Colombia, the government’s lack of control over their own territory is a major impediment to returning displaced people to their homes.   

Protection of internally displaced people (IDPs) is a critical human rights issue in the Colombian conflict. Unlike refugees, who flee across a border in response to persecution, war, or violence, IDPs are on the run within their home country. At the end of 2016, Colombia was home to more than 6.8 million internally displaced people, comprising nearly 15% of the total population and placing the country second only to Syria in its number of IDPs.

Most displaced Colombians have fled from rural areas where, from 1964 to 2016, the government engaged in a counter-guerrilla campaign against the FARC rebel group. Still others were displaced from urban areas in the 1980s and 1990s, when drug-related violence earned the city of Medellín the title of “most dangerous” in the world. Even with the June 2016 peace deal between FARC and the Colombian government, displacement continues as new paramilitary groups fight along Colombia’s Pacific coast.

In its efforts to resolve the IDP crisis, the Colombian government has followed the letter and the spirit of international law. Between 1993 and 1998, the UN Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis M. Deng, led a team of scholars to recommend policy on IDPs. Together they came up with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. One of the central tenets of these principles is that “national authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and humanitarian assistance” to their own internally displaced people. The actions that governments take (or fail to take) to fulfill these principles have real significance on the ground—without recognition of land rights, economic reparations, and security forces that are effective and accountable, displaced people will remain on the run.

UN Representative for Displaced Persons Francis M. Deng speaks in a press conference at UN Mexico City headquarters Tuesday Aug. 27, 2002. Deng urged Mexico to secure a peace accord and finally bring to a close the conflict in the southern state of Chiapas. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
The Colombian Congress recognized the government’s duty toward IDPs in its 1997 passage of Law 387, assigning to the state responsibility for the “assistance, protection, and socioeconomic strengthening” of internally displaced persons. As part of this responsibility, Bogotá has pursued a program of restoring land rights to displaced people, ensuring that IDPs’ access to their homes is protected and endorsed by the government.   

The government began pursuing land formalization and restitution in a project with the World Bank between 2002 and 2014, but the program resulted in only 1,337 new titles for land occupants. In 2011, Congress passed the Law on Victims and Land Restitution. The legislation generated high hopes in the human rights community, but in the five years after its passage, only 5,008 properties were resolved by judges (An additional 15,000 cases were resolved by the ad hoc Land Restoration Unit in 2016). Compared to the size of the IDP population in Colombia, this affects only a small group of people.

A woman attends a march to promote a law backed by Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos for the restitution of land to victims of the country’s armed conflict, in Necocli, Colombia, Saturday Feb. 11, 2012. The banner reads in Spanish: “Land and Life.” (AP Photo/Luis Benevides)
There were several factors that prevented the human rights that were enshrined in Law 387 from being guaranteed in the day-to-day lives of the Colombian people. First, fewer people than were expected have applied for land restitution. Distrust in government, lack of information about the law, and long distances to government offices could all be factors that explain why only a third of the anticipated number of applicants have applied for relief. Second, the restitution process is slow, under-resourced, and inefficient. Like any bureaucracy, the Colombian government’s land restitution program lacks the necessary funding to serve everyone who petitions for a land title. Third, gender discrimination can play a role in preventing female claimants from attaining property rights after their husbands have died or gone missing—a case that is particularly common following a civil conflict in which most of the combatants were men. Although the law was written with specific safeguards for women in the claims process, judges do not always follow through with these protections.   

These issues—low application numbers, a slow bureaucracy, discrimination against women—are a part of the problem, but the greatest factor is the inability of the Colombian state to protect land rights in the rural Southern part of the country. Most of the land restitution claims that have been filed with the government are in areas that, until recently, were controlled by FARC or contested by various groups. Some claims are in areas that are still being fought over by the Colombian armed forces, left-wing guerrillas, and right-wing paramilitaries. The government may be able to grant an applicant their land title, but that doesn’t make the land safe for a family to live in. Even if every displaced person submitted a claim, even if the bureaucracy ran perfectly, and even if not a single judge discriminated against women, the Colombian government’s land restitution program would not be able to surmount this obstacle.

Governments ought to honor human rights, but Colombia’s efforts at restoring land rights demonstrates that state capacity is an important condition. If the government in Bogotá does not first exert state control of rural areas in the country, it can’t honor its promises to return 6.8 million people to their homes. We should remain optimistic that Colombia will be more successful at restoring people’s land rights as the peace process unfolds. With greater authority over its own territory, Colombia can take a greater responsibility for the welfare of its people and be in a real position to help.

Defending the Defenders: What Role Should the Colombian Government Play in Protecting Human Rights Activists?

Human rights defenders play an important role in making the world aware of human rights abuses and pushing for accountability, but their activism often comes at a high price. In Colombia, NGO workers and activists regularly become the targets of murder, death threats, and other violence from militant groups. Without strong protections from the Colombian government, rights activists are unable to work in safety. 

In Colombia, as in other countries, there is a diverse group of individuals and institutions that play an important role in documenting abuse, preventing future rights violations, and ensuring justice for victims. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have termed members of this group “human rights defenders,” a broad term that includes not just civil society workers, but also those in politics, media, law, education, healthcare, and other fields who work to protect and promote human rights. A doctor who helps treat a victim of state-sponsored violence is as much a human rights defender as an international lawyer who devotes her professional career to prosecuting war crimes. The UN General Assembly recognized the importance of this broad group of individuals in its 1999 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, highlighting the freedom of association, assembly, petition, and due process.

People participate in a peace march in Bogota, Colombia, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. Thousands of rural farmers, indigenous activists and students marched in cities across Colombia to demand a peace deal between the government an leftist rebels no be scuttled. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In Colombia, these defenders have frequently been threatened, attacked, and even murdered. In 2016 alone, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported 60 killings of leading Colombian human rights defenders; the Bogotá-based NGO Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders) registered 80. The violent trend continued in 2017, with the United Nations reporting 105 murders of social activists in Colombia. 

Rather than being the targets of a centralized, coordinated campaign by a single entity, human rights defenders are the victims of competing paramilitary groups. As the FARC rebel group disbands under the terms of its June 2016 agreement with the Colombian government, neo-paramilitary groups have taken an increasingly aggressive posture in rural Colombia. Mixing elements of right-wing ideology and organized crime, these groups have used force to gain control over cocaine production and protect their economic interests. The department with the highest number of murders of activists in 2016, Cauca, was also the greatest producer of cocaine, and 75% of all human rights defenders murdered that year were killed by groups of organized criminals.

In this environment of death threats and assassinations, potential activists face a difficult choice: organize against the groups and risk becoming a target, or stay quiet and let those who violate human rights escape accountability. The campaign of intimidation against human rights defenders hasn’t just silenced those who are killed; it has also suppressed the voices of countless others who would have spoken out to protect rights.

Colombia’s first lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez, second left, talks to her husband President Juan Manuel Santos, during a military parade celebrating the country’s 206th anniversary of independence from Spain in Bogota, Colombia, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Also pictured are Colombia’s Armed Forces Commander Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez, left, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, right. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Given the precarious position of activists and social leaders in rural Colombia, the government must do more to protect them. This starts with clear communication. President Santos and his cabinet should express unequivocal support for the work of human rights defenders and commitment to protecting their rights to speech and assembly. Rather than downplaying the assassinations of activists and claiming that they were killed for personal rather than political reasons, as did the Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas in December of last year, the leaders should recognize them as part of wider threat to free expression and political activism. The Santos administration must also recognize the role of neo-paramilitaries in committing these abuses. The government has argued that that calling them paramilitary groups rather than criminal organizations would legitimize them; the name isn’t so important, however, as the recognition that what these groups share in common is the common target of human rights defenders. 

The second ingredient to improved protections for human rights defenders goes deeper. Carlos Guevara of Somos Defensores identifies impunity as the greatest threat to sustainable peace in Colombia, stressing that if no one is sent to prison for their assaults on human rights defenders, it will “send the message that … actions have no consequences.” By building a stronger judicial system and not letting assaults on activists go unpunished, the Colombian state can deter future violence against human rights defenders.

The role of human rights defenders in sharing information and protecting the rights of others is an important one. Criminal groups, paramilitaries, and guerrillas have used violence in an attempt to suppress these voices, but with a renewed commitment to human rights from the Colombian government, they will not be successful.

Crossing the Border: The Consequences of Venezuela’s Refugee Crisis for the Colombia-FARC Peace Accords

As Colombia grapples with the implementation of its peace deal with the FARC rebel group, the regional context is rarely out of sight. The influx of Venezuelan refugees into Colombia, provoked by hyperinflation and a political crisis within Venezuela, has complicated matters for the government of Juan Manuel Santos. By placing strains on rural areas recovering from a history of civil conflict and increasing political uncertainty in the run-up to the May 2018 Colombian presidential elections, the Venezuelan crisis presents a challenge to a lasting peace in Colombia. 

The economic and political decline of Venezuela has resulted in the largest refugee crisis in modern Latin America. With as many as 4 million Venezuelans crossing into neighboring countries to escape from the economic mismanagement, disease, and political oppression of the Nicolas Maduro regime, the country is on pace to eclipse Syria’s 5.5 million person refugee crisis within the next year. Ian Bremmer of the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group refers to the exodus as the world’s “least-talked-about” immigration crisis.

Colombia has been hit especially hard by the refugee crisis. The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Relations estimated around 550,000 Venezuelan citizens had entered Colombia by the end of 2017, approaching the 700,000 person population of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. To find out how to respond to this mass migration, Bogotá sent a delegation to Turkey in May 2017, meeting with policymakers at the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency and learning how Syrian refugee camps could provide a model for Colombia.

In this Feb. 23, 2018 photo, Venezuelan migrants pray before lunch at the “Divina Providencia” migrant shelter run by the diocese of Cucuta, in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela. The diocese offers an average of 1000 meals a day for the migrants. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
The arrival of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia presents two threats to the implementation of the Colombia peace process. First, by placing economic strain on the already resource-poor Eastern regions of the country, the entry of refugees prevents the state from honoring its obligations to those harmed by the civil conflict. Second, by presenting the administration of Juan Manuel Santos with a difficult choice over whether to accept refugees, the crisis strengthens the political opponents of the FARC deal. 

The economic impact of Venezuelan refugees’ entry into Eastern Colombia poses a challenge to long term rural reforms. Although much of the focus on the Colombian government’s 2016 accord with FARC has been on dissolving armed groups and having them turn over their weapons, the terms of the agreement also include components for longer term peace. Land reform, aimed at reintegrating FARC members into the economy and alleviating the rural poverty that enabled rebel groups to emerge in the first place, is one such component. Despite the government’s best intentions to address the problems at the root of the Colombian civil conflict, these structural reforms have stalled. Joaquin Sanchez, commission chief of the International Verification Commission on Human Rights in Colombia, reported in February 2018 that only 5% of the integral land reforms had been completed. It is in this environment, where the needs of Colombian citizens are vastly underserved, that the government must accommodate a surge of refugees.

The Venezuelan refugee crisis also presents as challenge for the government of Juan Manuel Santos. Already sitting at an abysmal 14% approval rating, Santos faces a politically difficult choice as the Venezuela refugee crisis worsens. If his administration declines to build refugee centers and closes its borders, Santos will earn some support from organizations and businesses concerned with the welfare of rural Colombians, but he will leave hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans stranded without access to medical care, food, or basic needs. If the government constructs refugee camps, the policy could encourage more people to cross the border, provoking anti-Venezuelan sentiments that could fuel support for opposition politicians.

Santos’ dilemma is analogous to that of Angela Merkel on whether to welcome Syrian refugees in Germany. By appealing to humanitarian goals and opening Germany’s borders, Merkel catered support from the left. However, she also angered populist voters, who turned to the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party in unprecedented numbers in 2017. For his part, Santos has straddled the line on refugees, strengthening border security but also opening a temporary service center to be administered by the UN Migration Agency and the Red Cross.

Ivan Duque, presidential candidate with the Democratic Center party, marks his vote during legislative elections as his son makes faces at his family and members of the press in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, March 11, 2018. Colombia will hold presidential elections in May. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Although Santos is prevented by term limit from running in the May 2018 presidential election, his handling of the refugee crisis could contribute to the choice of his successor. There are three major candidates in the race. Leftist Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla fighter, and centrist Sergio Fajardo, a mathematics professor and former mayor of Medellín, have committed to build on the deal with FARC. Iván Duque, a prominent leader of the “No” campaign against the FARC peace deal, has promised to revisit the agreement and make substantial revisions if elected. Duque has raised issues with drugs crossing the “porous border” between Colombia and Venezuela; a backlash against Venezuelans entering the country would likely increase support for his candidacy. 

Colombia’s place in its region has a strong effect on what happens within the country. As the Colombian people choose their next president, decide whether to continue with the peace process, and embark on much-needed rural reforms, the consequences of the Venezuelan refugee crisis will weigh heavy.

Reason for Hope: Reflections on the Colombia Peace Process

Over the last seven months, I’ve written about the many facets of the Colombia Peace Process. I began by framing the debate as a case study in the broader trade-off between peace and justice for countries emerging from civil conflict. I then laid out the many obstacles to the peace deal’s successful implementation, including a lack of support from the United States, low state capacity to restore internally displaced people to their homes, persistent violence against human rights defenders, and the influx of Venezuelan refugees. With every article I read, the prospects for a sustainable peace accord seemed less and less likely. In the right context, however, what Colombia has accomplished so far is nothing short of a miracle. 

As I considered what topic to focus on for my last blog, I wanted to choose something a bit more personal than my previous entries. The idea came, unexpectedly, on a weekend trip a couple weeks ago to Gettysburg, PA, with the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. At dinner on Saturday night, I sat at the table with our bus driver, Carlos. The conversation drifted to politics, and Carlos brought up the example of Colombia as a reason to be optimistic—his parents immigrated had immigrated from Colombia to the United States, and compared to the stories he had heard from his grandparents from when they were growing up, today’s Colombia was far safer. I was surprised by his optimism, but through our conversation, I realized that my more pessimistic outlook was based on the context in which I was considering the peace process. Rather than looking at Colombian history from the past 50 years and using that as a reference point, I’ve compared the partially implemented peace deal to an impossible ideal. I have also relied primarily on the English-language press for my sources, prioritizing issues that may not be the most salient to people living in Colombia today. Both of these concerns—failing to look at the historical context and using a limited variety of sources—have influenced how I have told the story of the Colombian peace process.

When placed in the proper historical context with an emphasis on security, today’s Colombia begins to look more hopeful than the narrative that I have painted over the last several months. To understand why, we need to review what led up to the present moment in Colombian history. The FARC rebel group originated in a 10-year period of Colombian history known as La Violencia (The Violence), during which over 200,000 people died amid an armed conflict between the Liberal and Conservative parties. When, in 1958, the two parties ended the conflict and agreed to a system of rotating power called the Frente Nacional (National Front), not everyone was pleased with the arrangement. Some guerrillas decided to resist the government, including a Marxist group that would later name themselves the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Along with the 19th of April Movement (M-19), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and other revolutionary groups, FARC engaged in a 50-year insurgency against the national government. The war cost the lives of another 220,000 people, 80% of them civilians.

This April 1948, file photo shows rioting and looting as a street car is overturned and burned during an uprising following the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in Bogota, Columbia. The 1948 assassination of populist firebrand Jorge Eliecer Gaitan sparked the political bloodletting known as “La Violencia,” or “The Violence.” The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are preparing for a peace deal, in Columbia’s half-century guerrilla conflict which has roots in the assassination, which they and the government say could be just weeks away. (AP Photo/E. L. Almen, File)
This April 1948, file photo shows rioting and looting as a street car is overturned and burned during an uprising following the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in Bogota, Columbia. The 1948 assassination of populist firebrand Jorge Eliecer Gaitan sparked the political bloodletting known as “La Violencia,” or “The Violence.” The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are preparing for a peace deal, in Columbia’s half-century guerrilla conflict which has roots in the assassination, which they and the government say could be just weeks away. (AP Photo/E. L. Almen, File)
As the civil war raged between the Communist guerrillas and military, the country also dealt with violence from paramilitary groups and drug cartels. The military often collaborated with the cartels and paramilitaries, engaging in gross human rights violations and in some cases killing more civilians than those killed by the guerrillas. By the late 1990s, academics, journalists, and policy advisors were tossing around the concept of a “failed state” to describe the Colombian government’s lack of authority over its internal affairs. 

Compared to the violence that the country suffered between the late 1940s and the early 2000s, today’s Colombia is far more secure. In 2017, President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the country had marked the lowest homicide rate in 42 years. At 24 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Colombia’s murder rate remains far higher than the world average of 5.3. Still, using a historical context, this is a major improvement from the rates in excess of 70 intentional homicides per 100,000 that Colombia reached in the late 1990s. Colombia today is no longer engaged in a war with FARC. The major drug cartels—Medellín and Cali—have been disbanded. The language of failed states no longer applies to the country. On most dimensions of security, the outlook for Colombia is positive.

Supporters of the peace deal signed between the Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, listen to results of a referendum to decide whether or not to support the deal at the “yes” vote headquarters in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos recognized the referendum defeat. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)


Supporters of the peace deal signed between the Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, listen to results of a referendum to decide whether or not to support the deal at the “yes” vote headquarters in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos recognized the referendum defeat. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
People within Colombia and outside of the country have a diverse set of views on the FARC peace deal, and no single story can capture the feelings of those who were primarily affected by the violence. Over the last several months, I’ve told a story about the many hurdles faced by the agreement, emphasizing how it could go wrong. Talking with Carlos helped me understand another story—one that favorably compares the status quo to the last 50 years and is hopeful about what the future holds.