Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Award Committee recognized the “determined efforts” of the Colombian president “to put an end” to the armed conflict that lasted 52 years and resulted in 220,000 dead and missing and millions of displaced Colombians.
The award was given despite the result of the referendum on Oct. 2, which rejected the peace agreements concluded in Havana after almost four years of official negotiations and another four of exploratory talks prior. The No vote won by a narrow margin, 50.23 percent for No versus 49.76 percent for Yes, and an abstention rate of 63 percent.
For the moderates, this is an incentive to go ahead, despite the opinion of the polls. For the left, it demonstrates again the ambiguity of the Nobel institution, which, unlike in other conflicts — South Africa, Vietnam and the Middle East — this time has decided to award the prize exclusively to one side, ignoring the contributions of the other parties, decisive for any peace accord.
The first name was that of Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, alias Timoshenko, the FARC leader who signed with Santos the Cartagena agreements and conducted the negotiations. The second name was that of Cuban President Raul Castro, whose role has been crucial, both in reaching agreements and “demining” the logic of war in the new multipolar scenario.
In addition to the negotiations between Santos and FARC, Havana has in fact hosted three other events of historical significance: the CELAC summit (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states that leaves out the U.S. and Canada), during which the continent was declared a peace zone; the reopening of relations with the U.S.; and the historic embrace between Pope Bergoglio and Krill, the patriarch of Moscow.
The third name — the first according the group of intellectuals headed by former Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, who proposed him for the Nobel Peace Prize — should have been the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. She argued that he deserves it, not only because Venezuela has been and is the first “supporting country,” which has been facilitating negotiations also with the other historical guerrilla groups, like the Guevara-inspired ELN, but because the negotiations were set in motion thanks to the stubbornness of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. That process began with the liberation of prisoners of war by the FARC in 2008, first of all Congresswoman Ingrid Betancourt. The latter said: “It pains me to say it, but the prize should have been awarded also to the FARC.”
However, the meaning of the decision is clearly political. The FARC and the alternative left, who supported the re-election of Santos to ride his ambition to move from hawk to dove, are calling for peace with social justice. This would only be possible with a structural change to remove the root causes of the armed conflict. A framework defined, after endless domestic and international mediations, by the seven main points of the agreement, which provide for an agrarian reform, and the re-opening of the spaces of policy viability in security, to allow the return of the guerrillas to political life.
The right, with different levels of intensity, want instead “the peace of the grave,” which neutralizes the guerrillas and leaves the rural communities to their fate. They were the most affected by war and devastation of resources by parts of the multinationals, and not surprisingly voted for Yes. The murders of social leaders are indeed on the rise, along with the number of paramilitaries with whom former President Uribe concluded secret agreements for a new impunity. It is unthinkable for the establishment to admit that socialism, rejected again by progressive governments of the region, is the most credible actor to give content to the word “peace.”
Santos and Uribe are two sides of the same coin. The former represents the interests of the big bourgeoisie and international capital, and the latter the most rancid and perhaps less attractive oligarchy, but still attractive to the military industrial complex, determined to recover all spaces in Latin America.
Santos said he will continue to pursue peace and dedicated the award to the victims and to all those who contributed to the negotiations. He knows that, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, that he did not have to convene, he would have won anyway.
The majority of the government camp, in fact, did not spend that much in a campaign mostly led by former President Uribe, in whose government Santos held the position of defense minister. Not for nothing, the FARC had demanded and continue to demand the convening of a constituent assembly.
And now Uribe is back in the game playing strong, to renegotiate the Havana agreements downward. Santos invited him to a meeting to “revive” the dialogue. It is not difficult to guess the assumptions. Actually, Uribe had accepted the first exploratory talks with the FARC, stimulated by the action of Chavez. Immediately, though, he had imposed the expulsion of Venezuela from the mediation talks, wanting to impose “the peace of the grave” on the guerrillas.
On Oct. 31, the bilateral cease-fire extended by Santos will expire. Timoshenko called on the guerrillas to return to the camps and wait in “safe areas.” The commander said: “The greatest recognition we aspire is not a Nobel prize, but a real peace.”