Day: August 28, 2016

Here is why we don’t need a wall

While Donald Trump has let up on deporting millions of people out of the US, he continues to press for the wall on the Mexican border, largely to prevent crime (especially murders). The Economist provides this compelling graphic illustrating why the wall is unnecessary:

Here is why you don't need a wall

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Believing in peace in Colombia

A SAIS alum living in Bogotá writes: 

While the world rejoices that the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached an agreement to end a 52 year-old conflict, my parents refuse to accept the terms negotiated in the agreement. “Those people should be in jail for what they have done to this country!” announced my father, a 65 year-old who in his life has not seen peace. “I am going to vote ‘No’ in the plebiscite, because I don’t believe in this government,” declared my mother. The October 2 will give Colombians an unprecedented opportunity to vote ‘Yes’, or ‘No’ on a yet-to-be determined question.

My parents are not alone in their skepticism of the agreement. Many Colombians, led by former president (2002-10) Alvaro Uribe Velez, are campaigning against it on the grounds that the government was too lenient in terms of transitional justice, political participation, and reparations for victims. The sentiment is understandable. The name FARC in Colombia carries the  psychological weight of massacres, kidnappings, bombs, and all sorts of terrorist attacks orchestrated by the world’s longest standing Marxist guerrilla.

The terms of the agreement are revealed in a 297-page document that the government has done a poor job socializing to the public. It contains important concessions by both the government and the FARC. Tellingly, the FARC agreed to disengage from the narcotics trade. However, the scourge of narcotrafficking will remain as long as consumers in Europe and the United States continue with their voracious and inelastic appetite for cocaine. The agreement also contains landmark steps on victims rights, a truth commission, and transitional justice for FARC-fighters, paramilitaries, and state actors who committed grave crimes in the context of the conflict.

The agreement will arguably take 20 years or more to implement, but its effects will begin to be seen on tomorrow, August 29,when the government and the FARC declare a complete bilateral ceasefire.  The accords will be signed in Bogota on September 23, which will signal ‘D-day,’ the beginning of the transition period when the FARC will move to 23 hamlet zones and eight temporary camps across the country for 180 days. This will be followed by an 18-month stabilization period, a 10-year period of implementation of the agreements and a further 10-year period to consolidate peace. This doesn’t mean Colombia is out of the woods yet, as there remain important  narcotrafficking Organized Armed Groups (GAO) and a smaller, yet fierce, communist insurgency, the National Liberation Army (ELN). These groups will continue their criminal activities for a while. But removing the FARC from the picture will make a huge dent in the bloodshed.

Colombia deaths

Figure 1: Showing the number of civilian, public forces, and FARC deaths during offensive actions and combats. Source: CERAC

As a result of the agreement, little will change for urbanites in Bogota, Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla. Yet for individuals living in distant rural areas, the effect will be enormous. No longer will the FARC recruit their children for war, plant landmines, destroy their makeshift infrastructure, or participate in battles in their territories. The implementation of the accords will mark the beginning of the implementation of an ambitious plan to redistribute land to victims, build tertiary roads, and provide rural electrification to the countryside, which has suffered from the abandonment of the State for over 200 years. It is an enormously complex challenge, to which the United States, European Union, and United Nations have pledged assistance.

Yet the opportunity to dream of a better country, one where political differences are debated and argued, where we finally get an opportunity to heal 52 year old wounds, depends on the October 2 vote. Peace with the FARC is within our reach. The referendum will initiate a transition to a period full of uncertainty but immense promise.

In order to fulfill that promise, the first order of business will be to rid ourselves of the generational bitterness caused by the longstanding confrontation. “Do you think you will see peace during your lifetime, Dad?” I asked. “Probably not,” he replied, “but your children might.”

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