Protecting victims, policing illegal assets and building strong local institutions are the next steps Colombia should pursue to accomplish the objectives laid out in the Peace Accords, Liberal Party Senator and Presidential Pre-Candidate Juan Manuel Galán (GRD ’03) said at a conference held Friday in McGhee Library.
Galán, who is currently in his third term as a Colombian senator and serves as the President of the Commission on the Law of Victim’s Rights, commended last year’s deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The negotiation ended a civil war that had lasted for 53 years.
He said, however, that the next parts of the process — prosecuting wrongdoers, remunerating victims and integrating the FARC into the political system — will be complicated to navigate.
“One of the biggest challenges that we’re facing right now is the transitional justice. That is the heart of the Peace Accords,” Galán said. “The way we implement this transitional justice is going to ensure the success or the failure of the Peace Accords.”
Galán said that all eight million people internally displaced by the civil war have the right to know the legal implications of their respective cases and receive appropriate compensation, for which he put forth legislation that would give such powers to an appointed tribunal.
“That is going to be a big challenge for this transitional tribunal,” Galán said. “But it will ensure that every victim will be protected and will have the guarantee of accessing the truth about their own issue and have also the guarantees of non-repetition and justice.”
He added that the government would seek for compensation to come from the FARC’s own assets as part of a process to procure all the group’s physical and monetary possessions.
“The government has been very timid, very shy on chasing these assets, but it’s a crucial issue, not only to ensure that the victims have reparation, but to ensure that the FARC do not have an unjust advantage as a political party in the next elections,” Galán said. “We have to insist that the main effort of reparation has to be on the FARC to their victims with their assets.”
Looking beyond the short-term objectives, Galán said that land and tax reform would be needed to build sustainable, strong political institutions at the local level to combat corruption and instability. Through this, Colombia could achieve a more democratic political system, a more competitive economy and a more equal society, he said.
Galán also addressed the fight against drug trafficking, saying countries should focus not only on prosecuting traffickers, but also confronting the social issues of poverty and drug addiction.
“Building up this debate would give us the result of having a different approach, especially towards the weakest links of the chain of the drug issues, and the weakest links are the consumer, the addict, the problematic user of drugs and the peasant who is cultivating the coca plant,” Galán said. “We need a public health approach, a human rights approach.”
Speaking on United States-Colombia cooperation on the issue of drug trafficking, Galán said that even though U.S. President Donald Trump had recently threatened to decertify Colombia as an ally, he hoped to establish a connection with the U.S. Congress to promote a comprehensive framework for cooperation.
“We’re trying to set up a more constitutional, official framework of meeting between the Colombian Congress and the U.S. Congress, trying to build up an agenda, trying to share information, use new forms in drug policy, and not going back 30 years, starting to talk about again aerial spreading of crops,” Galán said.
For the Liberal pre-candidate, everything ties back to a broader drive for modernization. Without the FARC consuming all its focus, Galán said that Colombia can address other contentious issues.
“For 50 years, we have a level of violence and internal conflict and everybody said, ‘No, this is the priority, we have to face this menace, this challenge, we cannot think about any other thing,’” Galán said. “Now that we don’t have this conflict, there’s nothing that makes us think about other things that are more important than these reforms, especially the main causes of this conflict: the land reform and the political participation.”