The sky will not fall, if no overall peace accord is signed by March 23, and even if there is no accord some time after that date. The political opposition would probably seize on the passing of March 23 without an overall peace accord signed as an example of what it sees as the FARC jerking Pres. Santos around.
A possible image (unfair or not) of the FARC supposedly toying with Santos is a serious concern of Pres. Santos and his peace team. For its part, the FARC leadership worries that there could be a “fast-one” or “trap” where Santos and his negotiating team might supposedly try to slip in conditions or circumstances one way or another whereby “oligarchical” interests are safeguarded without doing the “real change” that the FARC proposes and whereby FARC members might eventually perhaps end up in jails or in some sort of reclusion, which the FARC rejects. And, while FARC leaders have told me that the FARC won’t be the first to walk away from the peace table, they have been concerned since the beginning of the peace talks that Santos could one day “on a whim” or “tantrum” decide to give a kick to the peace-negotiating table and walk away in a huff.
To reassure each other and the public and try to keep up confidence in the Colombian peace process among a volatile Colombian public opinion which has experienced a number of ups and downs on its views toward the peace process, Pres. Santos and the FARC could consider some sort of bridging mechanism, if March 23 passes without the signing of an overall peace accord. How could this be done?
An option would be that the Colombian government and FARC could sign and publicly announce in a joint statement a “memorandum of understanding”-like document where both the FARC and Colombian government pledge to put an end or pledge to arrive to an end to the armed conflict and hostilities, and that the FARC’s “struggle” (“lucha”) would be through exclusively lawful, peaceful means in political, electoral and civic realms and in society in general and that the Colombian government would take initiatives to strengthen measures against state abuses. Such a possible “memorandum of understanding” could perhaps be done in conjunction with positive news on something related to an eventual bilateral cease-fire and cessation of hostilities.
It would be stressed by both the Colombian government and FARC that the “memorandum of understanding” pledge would be evidence, a milepost or a sign of the peace talks moving closer toward a formal end and that it is just a matter of making sure in the meantime that the unresolved remaining issues are negotiated, tightened-up and resolved in a well-done, solid way, and not in slap-dash, uncareful fashion.
Just after the January 19 announcement of the agreement between the Colombian government and FARC that the United Nations, via observers from CELAC nations, is to verify an eventual bilateral cease-fire and FARC ” laying down of weapons, the FARC’s “Ivan Marquez” made a statement, saying as cited by Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper, that the agreement is a “strong sign and happy premonition that the peace process is on its way inexorably to the end of the longest conflict on the continent.”
While “Ivan” put in the caveat words of a “sign” and “premonition”—presumably to take into account the FARC’s own sensitivities and that an overall peace accord is not signed, yet—his choice of word “inexorably” is in the right direction for the Colombian public’s and international community’s desires to hear news of solid, real steps toward ending the armed conflict.
But it would be a stronger statement if the FARC were to say flat-out that it renounces warfare as a means to try to effect change in Colombia, in today’s circumstances. Such a statement wouldn’t mean that the FARC would be at the mercy of those who want to physically attack it.