The Ultimate Guide to Colombia's Peace Negotiations

Ariel Avila, a conflict analyst at Bogota's New Rainbow Foundation says that both sides have very different views of how rural areas of the country should be run, with the government favoring mining projects that increase the government's tax revenues, and large extensions of cash crops. The FARC, on the other hand, favor small farming cooperatives and the redistribution of land to people who have settled Colombia's agricultural frontier.

According to Avila, lands taken by paramilitary groups throughout the conflict are now in the hands of businessmen, or politicians with ties to the Colombian government who essentially purchased illegally acquired land.

During the negotiations the FARC might ask for these lands to be given back to peasants or small landowners. "It's a big problem because those who are in government might see themselves affected by this negotiation," Avila said.

The FARC have not yet clearly laid out their requests for rural development, but Avila suggested that the guerrillas may push for credit schemes for small farmers, and infrastructure improvements in remote rural areas. "We will have to see how much of this the government can afford," Avila said.

What Will Be the Most Controversial Issue?

Government negotiators will have to grapple with a thorny issue during these peace talks: How to encourage the FARC to lay down their weapons, but still hold them accountable for crimes they have committed. Do they offer reduced prison sentences to guerrilla leaders for example? Or do they suggest no prison at all, if FARC agrees to turn in their weapons and demobilize their troops?

Christian Voelkel, a Colombia analyst at the International Crisis Group, suggests that both sides in the negotiation will have an incentive to mutually pardon each other and bury their crimes.

But Voelkel spoke out against any deal that ignores the rights of Colombia's civilian victims to justice, and to know the truth about what has happened to family members killed or kidnapped by the FARC.

"A lasting peace accord cannot be built simply on a scheme where crimes are forgotten and forgiven," Voelkel told ABC/Univision. "If that were to happen the rights of victims would be violated once again," Voelkel said.

Voelkel and other analysts we've spoken to have suggested that FARC leaders, who have been at war for three or four decades, will not stop fighting if they face 15 to 20 year prison sentences. But on the other hand, the international community will not back a peace deal under which human rights violations go unpunished. And through its funding schemes for reconstruction projects, the international community has some leverage over the Colombian government.

The most likely outcome, according to Ariel Avila, is a deal where reduced prison sentences or pardons are offered to some guerrilla leaders, but where those accused of committing massive human rights violations are held accountable for their crimes.

The government is also likely to implement truth commissions where guerrillas and members of the military provide information about any war crimes they may have committed, in exchange for amnesty or reduced sentences. This system was implemented in South Africa in order to bring an end to the Apartheid regime. Truth commissions were also used to end the civil war in El Salvador.

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