BOGOTA – The United Nations Security Council is visiting Colombia at a critical moment for the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement, a process now complicated by the killings of at least 140 former FARC members and a Supreme Court order for the arrest of an ex-guerrilla leader.
Representatives of the 15 Security Council member states and officials from the UN General Secretariat are scheduled to arrive in Bogota on Thursday night and return to New York on Sunday morning.
The first item on their agenda will be a private meeting on Friday with conservative Colombian President Ivan Duque, whose foreign minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, extended the invitation to the Council in April.
Once that meeting concludes, Duque and the Council’s president, Peruvian Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, will give a press conference.
The delegation from that multilateral organization also will meet on Friday with members of civil society, the United Nations System and the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC), a communist political party that is the successor to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group and uses the same acronym.
They also will hold meetings with representatives of government agencies and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which was established as part of the Nov. 24, 2016, peace deal between former President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration and the FARC and tasked with investigating and adjudicating crimes committed during Colombia’s decades-old armed conflict.
On Saturday, the delegation will visit one of the Territorial Training and Reincorporation Spaces (ETCRs) and speak with former guerrilla fighters who are being reintegrated into society after laying down their weapons.
The goal of the visit – promoted by the Peruvian and British ambassadors to the Council following Trujillo’s invitation – is to support efforts to implement the peace accord.
The delegation also intends to “observe and support the United Nations’ peace mission in Colombia and better understand the priorities and concerns of the parties to the peace agreement and other stakeholders in the process,” Meza-Cuadra said on June 26.
The visit to Colombia, however, comes at a complicated moment for the peace accord, with the FARC saying on Thursday that at least 140 ex-guerrillas and 31 of their relatives have been killed since it was signed.
The former guerrilla group says those crimes constitute a clear violation of the agreement and has demanded international assistance to ensure its candidates can participate in the Oct. 27 municipal and regional elections with security guarantees.
The FARC has harshly criticized Duque’s administration and blames it for not providing protection for ex-combatants that laid down their weapons as part of the peace deal.
The spate of killings has revived memories of the Union Patriotica, a party founded in 1985 as the FARC rebels were engaged in peace talks with the government and exploring the idea of abandoning armed struggle in favor of electoral politics.
The UP fared respectably at the polls in 1986, provoking a campaign of terror by paramilitaries and some elements of the security forces that resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 party members and the destruction of Union Patriotica as a political force.
Members of another insurgency that laid down their arms, M-19, met a similar fate in the 1990s.
At least seven former FARC leaders, meanwhile, have turned their backs on the 2016 peace agreement, the most recent case being that of Jesus Santrich, who was served an arrest warrant after he failed to show up in court on Tuesday in a drug-smuggling case.
Santrich’s whereabouts is unknown since June 29, when he apparently eluded the bodyguards assigned to him by the national protection unit during a visit to an ETCR in the northern province of Cesar.
Santrich, a former FARC commander wanted in the US on drug-trafficking charges, spent a total of 416 days behind bars before a May 30 Supreme Court ruling that he was entitled to certain protections because a seat in Congress had been reserved for him under the terms of the 2016 peace deal.
He was sworn-in last month as a member of the Colombian House of Representatives. The peace accord set aside 10 seats in Congress – five each in the Senate and House – for people to be designated by the new FARC party.
Despite these problems, the government expressed optimism about the Security Council visit.
“The government of President Ivan Duque welcomes the visit by the Security Council with great satisfaction and believes it will offer another chance for its members to learn first-hand about the progress” made over the past 11 months, Trujillo said.
Duque’s administration expects that the Security Council’s assessments will be included in a report on the peace process that the UN Verification Mission in Colombia will present on July 19 in New York.