BUENAVENTURA, Colombia – Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo is on a mission to explain the peace agreement reached between President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group, traveling thousands of miles a week to spell out the facts and dispel the myths surrounding this historic deal.
His goal is to raise awareness of the importance of voting in Colombia’s Oct. 2 referendum on the agreement, which was finalized last month in the Cuban capital.
“We’re here on a marathon for peace,” Jaramillo said Tuesday at an event in Buenaventura, the Andean nation’s main Pacific port, insisting that the tour was purely pedagogical in nature and not an effort to get out the “yes” vote in the plebiscite.
In Buenaventura, a city of 334,000 inhabitants where the poverty rate is 67 percent, according to City Council President Ligia Cordoba, 3,000 people packed a stadium to hear Jaramillo’s explanations of the peace deal.
“We want to live in peace. We don’t want any more violence,” Reison Joan Angulo, a leader of Buenaventura’s impoverished and violence-stricken sector of La Playita, told Jaramillo.
The peace commissioner walked through that area, where a “chop-house” used by criminal gangs to dismember their victims allegedly operated, after the gathering in downtown Buenaventura.
The desire for peace is great in a city whose port and seaside location have made it a territory coveted by guerrillas, paramilitary groups and drug-trafficking gangs.
“We’re extremely pleased that they’ve come to put the peace process into context because it’s very important to hear about the negotiations in Havana” before making our decision on Oct. 2, Cordoba said.
She added, however, that “there won’t be peace without social investment,” especially in a city that is home to a large number of people displaced by the armed conflict.