Colombia backs peace treaty with FARC but deal fails to oblige group to ‘real commitment,’ says Marta Lucia Ramirez

Ankara, 2 de abril de 2022

The peace process between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) depends on the rebel group’s being “committed to being 100% legal,” said Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez.

Underlining that the process to have peace is not “interesting enough” for a group that has been involved in narco-trafficking for 50 years, Ramirez told Anadolu Agency that the government supports the peace deal signed in 2016 but the agreement fails to oblige FARC to “real commitment” to bring information about cartels, producing and marketing drugs.

“They were not obliged to provide information about their assets abroad, in Colombia and in different parts of the world,” she said. “They were not obliged to provide information about types of drugs, how they are produced and how they are marketing to the entire world.”

“So that’s why we were critical about this aspect of the peace treaty with FARC and that’s why we said it was not real peace. Because when you have drugs you have no peace. When you have drugs, you have violence, you have murders and that’s what Colombia has been suffering,” she said.

On assassinations of the former FARC members, Ramirez said that those people were killed by their former allies only because they showed commitment to the government by leaving narco-trafficking.

“So this is the main reason why we are having these murders of former combatants so far. And for us, this is very frustrating because we want the people who really leave drugs and who really are committed to peace to survive,” she said.

Noting that since peace negations began, more than 12,000 people left the rebel group, she said 92% are currently involved in economic rights and social activities, and they are having a legal life.

“If they are committed to being 100% legal, and if they’re 100% committed to respecting law … I am ready to accept that they don’t go to jail,” she added.

Ramirez, who is also the foreign minister, asked for better cooperation against drugs from the international community, saying it is key for Colombia to have “real and sustainable peace.”

Russia-Ukraine conflict’s effect on Colombia

Reiterating Colombia’s stance that rejects the Russian “invasion” of Ukraine, Ramirez said Russia’s war not only costs human lives but causes worldwide economic damage as inflation rates and prices, including oil, gas and different natural resources, are on the rise.

She said economies are already devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and now are challenged by Moscow’s “unfair” war on Kyiv.

“So what we expect is that the international law will be respected. What we expect is that this war ends as soon as possible because nobody deserves to be killed and to be expelled from their own country,” she said.

Ramirez stressed that the main concern for Colombia is the production of grain and that is why the country has to try to fill the gap with other markets, as well as increase local production.

Moscow’s Black Sea blockade delays crucial grain exports and the UN voiced concern that it may cause a deepening hunger crisis in countries such as Yemen and Ethiopia.

But Ramirez noted that “Colombian grain relation with Russia has been very low, very small. So we wouldn’t have very big direct consequences.”

On oil and gas prices she said Colombia produces both but it is “not a big exporter.”

“And people think maybe the countries that produce (oil and gas) are going to benefit because prices go up, but I think nobody is going to benefit, because no matter if you’re receiving more money with higher prices of oil or gas, at the same time, you’re paying a very high cost because this inflation in the entire world,” she said, stressing that “nobody is having any benefits.”

It is affecting everybody and that is why it needs to be solved as soon as possible, she added.

She also underlined Turkiye’s leadership role in mediation and to find a solution to end the war, saying Colombia sees it as “very positive.”

Colombia-NATO relations

Asked whether Colombia is considering seeking full NATO membership after Russia’s war in Ukraine, Ramirez said it is “something that we haven’t considered yet.”

She added that Bogota finds it “okay” to keep the global partner status that it assumed five years ago.

Colombia has “very positive relations with almost all the members of NATO,” she noted and said the government recognizes that it is an “important” alliance as members support each other in trying to ensure peace in the world and sharing information about possible threats against any members of the international community or the members of the alliance.

She said nowadays, there are so many different threats, including cyber security and terrorism and Colombia has “suffered a lot” from terrorism.

Presidential elections

Regarding the upcoming May 29 presidential elections in Colombia, Ramirez said her country is “the most stable democracy in Latin America,” because it has had democracy when other regional countries have dictatorships.

“So this is the value for us to have a democracy and no matter who the Colombians choose in the next elections it’s important that we are to stand for democracy,” she said.

Noting that Colombia used to have “very high levels” of extreme poverty, she said in the last 25 years, it has been reduced.

“Unfortunately, now, because of COVID-19, we went back like 10 years in terms of the reduction of poverty,” she said. “But for us, it’s clear that only through a good democracy and a good economy we can improve the conditions of life for Colombians.”

“So the decision that Colombians to take in the next elections gonna be the decision that will maintain the stable democracy,” she said.

Migration issue

Migration is an issue that Colombia and Turkiye have in common, the vice president said. It is also something that both countries “have to be proud of” for showing solidarity to Venezuelan and Syrian refugees.

Ramirez warned about the new migration flow from Ukraine to many countries.

“We have to think how to handle migration, how to prevent it and how this migration that comes with the violence is different than migration that comes with the lack of opportunities.”

She emphasized that every country has to be responsible to provide opportunities to their citizens while trying to provide migrants and their families with better conditions.

Bogota “cannot act carelessly” about migrants who use the country as a transport route to the US and Mexico due to Colombia’s geographical position located in the middle of Latin America, she said, adding it can also cause a collapse of those countries.

First, we need to figure out how to prevent migration, second, how to help people who have this process of migration, and then how to provide housing, jobs and school for their children, she said.

Giving the example that Colombia still has a double-digit unemployment rate because of the pandemic, she said “it’s too difficult to provide jobs to all of Venezuelans in Colombia but we said that we are going to try, we are going to do the best effort in order to give them the opportunity.”

She noted that Colombia has temporary protection status for migrants in common with Turkiye, saying it began more recently than Turkiye.

“We have to learn from the Turkish experience,” she said, as that country hosts 4 million refugees, mostly Syrians — more than any other country in the world.

According to date from the World Bank, an estimated 1.7 million people from Venezuela live in Colombia — about 32% of all Venezuelan migrants in Latin America.

She urged the international community to financially help countries like Turkiye and Colombia instead of only applauding their “great” work in handling because the huge number of migrants can have a heavy toll on the budget of the countries.

Entrevista publicada en Américas

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