Colombia celebrates 6th year of peace pact with renewed hope

Bogota, Nov 24 (EFE).- Colombia on Thursday celebrated the sixth anniversary of the government’s signing of a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas with dancing and singing at a commemorative event on the same stage in the Teatro Colon where in 2016 the document was signed that put an end to Latin America’s longest-running guerrilla uprising.

The peace pact was signed Nov. 24, 2016, in the traditional Bogota theater by then-President Juan Manuel Santos and the head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Rodrigo Londoño.

On that stage on Thursday were representatives of the Mothers of Soacha, a choir of “children of peace,” signers who had spent time as guerrillas in the jungle and a group of women to remind people that “peace without women doesn’t work.” All of the participants asked that “the peace not be forgotten and the accords be implemented.”

As part of the cultural and artistic activities undertaken to commemorate the anniversary, a large white banner was spread out on the ground in the downtown Plaza Bolivar so that Colombians could sign it, write and draw on it to express their sentiments for the peace to continue.

One of the key figures in reaching the peace pact, Pastor Alape, who was a member of the FARC secretariat, celebrated the event featuring “encounter, embrace, reconciliation,” because – he said – despite the “352 signers murdered (during the past six years), despite the fact that there are still imprisoned people … the country is moving forward in building peace.”

“Six years after the signing, after battles for (the pact’s) implementation, we can affirm with certainty that it has made possible and provided possibilities to open up democracy” and “to close the great gap of death and victimization,” added Alape, who was also one of the negotiators of the peace accord.

In addition, he insisted that “the final accord is a powerful political act of reconciliation” and that Colombians should continue to implement the peace “with daily actions, with daily commitment, because peace is a process that’s built day by day.”

Representing the government, given the absence of President Gustavo Petro, was Labor Minister Gloria Ines Ramirez, who reiterated the intention of the administration to fulfill the accord.

“We (have made) the decision to implement the accord in a comprehensive manner,” said Ramirez, emphasizing that the first step toward that objective was to push forward with agrarian reform.

In addition, she reiterated the willingness of the government to achieve “total peace” by pursuing “contacts with several armed groups” above and beyond re-establishing the peace dialogue with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas last Monday in Caracas.

Also present were Interior Minister Alfonso Prada and Culture Minister Patricia Ariza, who paid tribute to “two men (Santos and Londoño) in the name of all who signed the peace (pact) and embraced one another on this very stage.”

However, Ariza lamented the fact that “full peace has not arrived because the government didn’t keep its word” and “tore up” the agreement, referring to former President Ivan Duque, but noting that the new administration decided that “peace will come not only in some new accords but will be written in the soul of the nation because it will become a way of life.”

Meanwhile, the special representative for the United Nations in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, invited the country to “celebrate all that has been achieved,” adding that “it showed the world that the road of dialogue (and) negotiation is the best way to achieve peace.”

“And (Colombia) did so with an innovative agreement, focused on the victims, that managed to reconcile concepts that at times seemed irreconcilable, peace and justice, which raised standards on gender issues,” he said, adding that getting to Year 6 is also a reason to celebrate “because fewer than 40 percent of peace accords in the world get to the five-year point” before breaking down.

EFE –/bp

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