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Library and Documents

In this section you may find documents collected by CLAS Research Faculty or by CLAS Research Network. In this section we include official declarations, treaties, pieces of legislation, letters and other types of archival documents. Some files are available through external sources and some others can be downloaded directly from this site. Español

Colombian Peace Process in Comparative Perspective Project/ Colombia
By Presidential Period
by Guerrilla Movement

1982-1986: Belisario Betancur

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Belisario Betancur signed ceasefire agreements with four guerrilla movements in 1984:

-M-19 ("April 19th Movement," "Movimiento 19 de abril"),

-FARC "Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia", Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia")

-EPL ("Popular Liberation Army," "Ejercito Popular de Liberación",

-ADO ("Worker's Self-Defense," "Autodefensa Obrera")

Betancur declared that there are "objective" and "subjective" factors at the root of the Colombian violence. Echoing the political currents then occurring elsewhere in Latin America, he asserted that a "democratic opening" in Colombia would necessarily involve negotiations with the country's guerrilla movements leading to their reincorporation into the political life of the nation. For Betancur, negotiations would need to address major structural reforms ("the objective factors leading to violence") on land, political participation, direct election of local officials, security, justice and other key areas in the institutional and political life of the nation.

Betancur ultimately received little support from the country's political parties, Armed Forces or elite economic interests, and the separate ceasefire agreements and peace processes with these guerrilla movements broke down. His first Peace Advisor resigned declaring that there were "enemies of peace inside and outside the state ("enemigos de la paz agazapadas dentro y fuera del Estado." The M-19 responded to the collapse of negotiations by forcefully seizing the Palace of Justice in the center of Bogotá on November 6-7, 1985, leading to a bloody military response that left half the Supreme Court and all but one of the guerrillas dead. The first peace process also resulted in a systematic campaign of violence against a party founded by the FARC, the Unión Patriótica (UP). Eventually thousands of UP leaders and followers were assassinated, including their presidential candidates in 1986 and 1990 and scores of elected UP officials.

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1986-1990: Virgilio Barco

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Virgilio Barco, on taking office in 1986, concluded that his predecessor's peace process was too open-ended and the negotiating agenda was too broad. For Barco, major democratic reforms should not be negotiated with the guerrillas, since the state is the legitimate actor and the guerrillas represent groups that operate outside the law. The state, he said, could be magnanimous, but the negotiating agenda would be reduced to the issues of demobilization, disarmament and reincorporation (DDR). He called his strategy mano tendida pulso firme (“outstretched hand with a firm grip”). This new approach called for the guerrilla's to declare a unilateral ceasefire. The Armed Forces would not enter a truce since Barco asserted that they had the constitutional obligation to protect public order in all of the national territory.

At first, none of the guerrilla groups accepted Barco's proposal. On the contrary, the separate groups began the process of unifying their different forces into a National Guerrilla Coordinating body ("Coordinadora Nacional Guerrillera," "CNG"). However in 1989, the M-19 broke ranks from the other guerrilla groups and declared a unilateral ceasefire. In 1990, they signed a peace agreements and their leader, Carlos Pizarro, announced his candidacy for president in the elections of that year. He was assassinated on a campaign flight from Bogotá to the coastal city of Barranquilla shortly thereafter. Yet the M- 19 refused to be intimidated, shouting at Pizarro's funeral, "The votes for Pizarro will now go to Navarro!" Antonio Navarro Wolff, the M-19's new leader, received 12% of the vote.

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1990-1994: Cesar Gaviria

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President Gaviria extended the Barco model and successfully pursued negotiations with several guerrilla movements, including the EPL ("Ejército Popular de Liberación" "Popular Liberation Army"), MRQL (Movimiento Revolucionario Quintin Lame" "Quintín Lame Revolutionary Movement" and the PRT ("Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores" "Workers Revolutionary Movement,") On taking office, he called for special election to a Constituent Assembly, an idea had originated in a student-led initiative that urged voters to place an extra-official ballot ("la séptima papeleta') in support of a Constituent Assembly during the parliamentary elections of March 1990. The Assembly was viewed as a way for the country to address the political crisis and to consolidate peace. The voters overwhelmingly endorsed the proposal. In special elections held in December 1990, the M-19's political party, Acción Democrática/M-19, received 27% of the vote and their leader and former presidential candidate Antonio Navarro became of one of three co-presidents of the Assembly. The EPL joined the M-19 voting list and the other demobilized groups were given non-voting status. When a new Constitution was presented to the country in July 1991, President Gaviria declared that the constitution was basically a Peace Accord.

However, the FARC and the ELN, now allied in the Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar (CGSB), did not join the Constituent Assembly and the military confrontation between guerrilla and government forces intensified even as the Assembly met. Gaviria's initial response to the GGSB's refusal to lay down arms and join the Assembly was to bomb the main guerrilla camp of the FARC on the very day of the special elections. Yet as the confrontation increased, Gaviria again offered talks, and negotiations were launched first in Caracas (from June- December 1991) and then in Tlaxcala, Mexico (from January1992 - August 1992). The two sides could not agree on terms for a ceasefire or on the main agenda issues. Talks broke down following the kidnapping and killing of a former government minister, Argelino Durán Quintero by the CGSB. The collapse of the talks in Tlaxcala inaugurated a major new period of escalation in the country's war and Gaviria's Minister of Defense vowed to defeat the FARC in 18 months.

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1994-1998: Ernesto Samper

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Samper repudiated Gaviria’s re-militarization of the conflict and reaffirmed his support for a political solution to the Armed Conflict. Yet Samper's government became mired in scandal when accusation emerged that his presidential campaign had accepted monies from the Cali Cartel. The US de-certified Colombia as an ally in its war on drugs and revoked Samper's visa to enter the U.S. Samper's ability to govern was weakened, and the FARC rebuffed Samper's overtures, asserted that he was not a legitimate negotiating partner. The ELN, once again acting independently of the FARC, proposed negotiations with civil society leaders, but not with the government. The government nevertheless facilitated such meetings between the ELN and civil society leaders in Mainz, Germany, even as they were excluded from the meetings/ By the end of Samper's terms, a massive peace movement had emerged culminating in a 1997 plebiscite, Manadato para la Paz ("the Mandate for Peace"), where over ten million Colombia invited for peace. No Colombian president before or since has ever received as many votes.

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1998-2002: Andres Pastrana

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Pastrana campaigned on the issue of peace, and within days of his election, he flew into the jungle to meet with the FARC's historic leader, Manuel Marulanda. The two sides agreed to a 12-point negotiating agenda addressing the central social, economic and political conflicts of the country. To facilitate negotiations and ensure security, the FARC insisted on a zona de despeje, or demilitarized zone, consisting of 42,000 square kilometers, a territory the size of Switzerland where the state would withdraw all of its security forces. To the great surprise of many, Pastrana accepted this demand and the State withdrew its soldiers and police from the area. Both sides also agreed to negotiate without a ceasefire, a formula common in other peace process such as in El Salvador and Guatemala. However in Colombia the formula proved disastrous. As the negotiators from each side met inside the despeje zone, violence and the dirty war escalated throughout the country; both sides sought leverage and paramilitary forces increased their actions in an attempt to "spoil" the talks.

After three and a half years of negotiations, the two sides had reached no agreements on the issues identified in the negotiating agenda. The lone accomplishment was a prisoner exchange in 2001. By the end of Pastrana's term, much of Colombian society had become disillusioned with the prospect for a negotiated settlement. The process finally broke down on February 20, 2002 when the FARC hijacked an airplane with a prominent senator on board. Pastrana went on television and declared that troops would re-take despeje zone in 48 hours.

With the ELN, plans to create a second despeje zone on the Department of Bolivar were disrupted by paramilitary violence in the proposed zone. Sporadic meetings between government and ELN also led to no agreements.

During this period, for the first time, there was some formal participation by the international community. The UN Secretary General named a special advisor for Colombia ,and a Group of Friends, consisting of supportive Latin American and European countries was created was for both the ELN and FARC peace processes.

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2002-2010: Alvaro Uribe

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2010- Present: Juan Manuel Santos

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