Accord under strain — on Columbia peace pact
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Colombia’s presidential election, due in May 2018, will have a bearing (a person’s way of standing or moving) on the fragile (not strong or sturdy; delicate and vulnerable) peace accord of 2016 that ended one of the longest civil wars in history. The result of the parliamentary election held this month has framed the stiff (unable to move easily and without pain) challenge the pro-peace parties face. The accord between the Colombian security forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had won President Juan Manuel Santos the Nobel Peace Prize; it is to his credit that the government managed to implement the accord in bits and pieces despite unremitting (steady ; unbroken) hostility (unfriendliness or opposition) from the right-wing opposition led by former President Álvaro Uribe.
Now, in the March 11 parliamentary vote, Mr. Uribe’s Democratic Centre Party has emerged as the largest bloc in the Senate (the smaller upper assembly in the US, US states, France, and other countries) with 19 seats. Two other right-wing parties, Radical Change and Conservative Party, finished second and third with 16 and 15 seats, respectively. In all, the anti-accord parties have 50 seats in a House of 102. They may not have a clear majority, but the popular support they have mustered (collect or assemble) is undeniable ( unable to refuse ; accept). The ruling Social Party of National Unity won just 14 seats. FARC, contesting polls for the first time, finished with less than 1% of the vote, but is assured representation in parliament thanks to the accord.
Over the last year, the record of implementation of the steps in the peace accord has been patchy (existing or happening in small, isolated areas), though major strides (cross (an obstacle) with one long step) were made in the form of demilitarisation and disbanding of the FARC and its conversion into a legitimate (conforming to the law or to rules) political force. The other key aspects of the accord required Bogota to protect mainstreamed FARC leaders and to prevent right-wing militias from targeting left-wing leaders sympathetic towards the FARC. Yet, in the past year, several left-wing activists — such as leaders of teachers’ unions and mining workers’ unions — have been assassinated (murder (an important person) for political or religious reasons) by right-wing militia groups.
This has prevented the possibility of a similar peace accord with the other remaining insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), whose leadership fears reprisal (comeback) by militias if they lay down their weapons. Moreover, while the FARC leadership is committed to the accord, some elements of the group are holding out in the jungles, refusing to demilitarise and instead keep fighting. The next couple of months will be crucial for the pro-accord forces, with the parliamentary vote showing how much work they have ahead of them if they want to convince a sceptical (not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations) electorate — for which memories of the civil war are still quite raw — that peace deserves a chance. For this, they will have to take dedicated steps to overcome the urban-rural disconnect in Colombia. If this not done, the chances of the accord coming undone are dispiritingly high.