Has Pres. Santos, desirous to meet his March 23 “deadline” for an overall peace agreement, ceded too much to the FARC on key matters in the agreement on victims/justice? Some would say yes, noting that under the victims’/justice agreement, FARC leaders and members just have to collectively or individually “take responsibility,” and they would have no jail time and be eligible for political appointments or elected positions, some of which were once held by public servants whom they kidnapped or killed in their war against the state.
And it has been reported, and confirmed by the FARC’s “Ivan Marquez,” that Santos’ peace negotiators have discussed allowing the FARC a still-to-be-determined number of automatically FARC-designated Congressional seats for at least one term, even though Pres. Santos months earlier had insisted that while the concept of Congressional new special transitory circumscription districts was agreed (with the number of districts still to be determined) in the Point of Political Participation, they would be filled by presumably free elections in those districts. This appears to be something still under private discussion by the peace delegations.
While gerrymandered Congressional or parliamentary districts happen in the United States and other countries, why should the FARC, any armed movement or any group be awarded any specially designated Congressional seats at all and not have to compete for those seats electorally? Would this be unfair to other political parties and segments of society and send a wrong message that democracy could be bullied if an armed group is strong enough? Legal leftist parties, which have a small minority fraction in Colombia’s Congress, worry that awarding unelected seats to the FARC could displace them, when the legal leftist parties have played peacefully by the rules via the ballot box.
The FARC would reply that given decades of it and its supporters being “repressed and persecuted,” an affirmative action-like quota of designated seats would be a step toward redressing what it sees as an unfair imbalance. There is already a precedent of Congressional seats being designated for a demobilized guerrilla group, with one or two designated in the House of Representatives from 1994 to 1998 for the small demobilized guerrilla group Corriente de Renovacion Socialista. And two Congressional seats are Constitutionally reserved every four years, one each, for Indian and African-Colombian representation. (Indian and African-Colombian political parties nominate candidates to run for those respective seats, sometimes including non-Indian or non-African-Colombian candidates.)
Despite these and other controversial aspects, some experts on ending guerrilla or other internal armed conflicts are pleasantly surprised to see that more has been achieved in the victims’/justice agreement than they had expected, even if it looks like cosmetic judicial trappings to human rights groups or others.