It is one of the most iniquitous examples of lying in the Bible…Jeremiah 6:14. In the Standard American Bible translation – “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.”
The recent Presidential election in Colombia may have turned on a popular sense that the country was being deceived, that the Government of President Juan Manuel Santos had made a peace deal, and said the country was at last at peace with the FARC, the “Revolutionary Army of Colombia” after a 30 year guerilla war, but things weren’t peaceful.
It wasn’t that the FARC leaders who made the deal to disband their army and end their fight were cheating. And the 7000 former fighters who turned themselves and their weapons in were also, by and large, living the straight life.
It was that their surrender created a void of power in the territories once FARC-controlled. And the Santos government did not fill it; did not fill it with law and order, did not fill it with promised benefits from a coca cultivation switch to cacao or avocados.
So the void has been filled by elements of the FARC who did not surrender or go straight, and other professional criminals in the cocaine industry.
The real world consequences of this were summed up in the Colombian news story that dominated Latin American news media the day after Conservative Ivan Duque was elected President.
It was the end of a long-running story, of a team of Ecuadorian journalists, a reporter, a photographer and a driver, trying to tell the story of the drug trafficking that dominates both sides of the Colombia-Ecuador border. First they went missing, then they turned up in a proof-of-life video, captives of a narco-gang of ex-FARC fighters. Then, 3 bodies were found, and then on the day after the Presidential election, they were identified as the team from the Ecuadorian daily El Comercio.
The failure of the Colombian Government to bring all of the FARC elements to peace, and even more, the failure to bring anything like governance to the areas liberated by the peace agreement, and the huge surge in coca farming and production that have followed the peace, made those cries of “peace, peace,” feel ironic.
So, by a decisive 54-42% margin, Colombian voters went for Ivan Duque, the guy who criticized — and promised to fix — the peace deal over Gustavo Petro, who wanted Government to follow through on its promises to make peace work.
Two reasons the Santos Government couldn’t fulfill the promises of peace were a very bad domestic economy and very strong opposition in the Congress to funding the peace deal.
You see, like just about everything, peace has its price. In Colombia’s case the price included the cost of cops and prosecutors, to bring law to former outlaw territories, and the costs of teaching people to stop raising coca and switch crops and subsidizing them till they can make an acceptable living from the switch.
The fellow who led the squeeze on budget to pay the price for peace projects was Sen. Alvaro Uribe, former President Alvaro Uribe, and quite simply, the man who made Duque President. He’s still the most powerful man in Colombia’s Congress.
One question a lot of Colombians are asking is, “Will Sen. Uribe or President Duque run the country?” Duque is the youngest President in Colombian history and Uribe is perfectly positioned to be more than just a mentor.
Joshua Goodman is the Associated Press (AP) Bureau Chief for the Andean region of South America, based in Bogota.