Nobel Peace Prize and Colombia - HATICE KARAHAN

Nobel Peace Prize and Colombia

This year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was announced last Friday. The Nobel Committee saw Colombia State President Juan Manuel Santos worthy of this prestige for his efforts to bring peace to his country. As soon as the news spread, it led to a feeling of strangeness in all corners of the world. Hence, the peace efforts in question had been interrupted only a few days ago in the country's referendum.

If we were to remember the process, Colombia has been struggling with the narco-terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) nuisance since 1964. The negotiations between the organization that has cost tens of thousands of lives, millions of victims and Colombia's half a century through assassinations, massacres, abductions and drug trafficking and the government had reached a conclusion this summer and the peace agreement was signed in September. However, the public's approval was also necessary for the agreement to be valid.

Following this, the referendum that was held on Oct. 2 – sure that the result would be “Si” – was surprised by the no decision. Even though those who said no to the agreement just won with 50.2 percent, it was interesting that the majority of the electorate did not go to the ballot box for such a critical poll. As a result, the people of Colombia showed that they do not recognize the FARC agreement.

Unforgivable

Surely those who said no to the agreement would have also wanted peace; however, there were a couple matters that pushed them to make this decision. One of these was the political rights that would be given to the FARC as a requirement of the agreement and the other was the “penalty” issue. Hence, the idea that organization members who confessed their crimes pay the penalty through social services and, as a matter of fact, be paid a salary rather than doing time in prison made some people's blood boil. In other words, one section of the public felt the organization was going to be awarded in exchange for leaving arms and stopping the cocaine trafficking.

For those who thought, “Some things are unforgivable. And they must remain unforgivable,” these conditions could not be justice.

Hence, the voice that rose from among the public was, “You talked for four years and this is the point you reached?” It was still thought that these voices would be weaker than those that said, “as long as war ends,” but this time the checks were misleading. With the surprise that came out of the ballot box, Colombia peace came under risk. Of course, neither the government nor the FARC said, “We give up,” but convincing the public entered a new challenging path.

Not even a week had passed since all this happened that the Nobel Peace Prize came along. The prize that was awarded to an unconcluded and unapproved effort was naturally a little disturbing. Meanwhile, the Nobel being awarded to Santos had probably become even more possible with the failure he experienced. Because it seems that the likelihood of overcoming the obstacle that peace got caught in would become stronger with a prize as critical as the Nobel. Perhaps it would be possible to convince Colombians with the effect of such an outside authority.

Slowdown in the economy

The question on minds after this point is whether the president is going to be able to steal the hearts of those who voted no with this prize.

(Continuing with the presumption that it is ambiguous that the FARC would agree to the new conditions) if we look at two fundamental factors specific to Santos, we will first remember that his political popularity is not so bright. Former Defense Minister Santos who became president in 2010 is not supported very much by the public.

In addition to this, the people of Colombia are not very happy in the economic sense either. Colombian economy, which has seen substantial growth figures both before and after the crisis, even if with ups and downs, is currently experiencing a downfall again. While the economy that grew 2 percent annually in the second quarter of 2016 is displaying its lowest tempo after 2009, the shrinking in the mining sector and primarily oil, also have a role in the slowdown.

Strong credit

Colombia, which is one of the countries fortunate to have oil, has been exposed to misfortunes with the plummeting of prices in recent years. As if that's not enough, it was also effected by the attack of terrorist organizations on its pipelines. It is also known that gangs have a role in some of the country's sectors. In such an atmosphere, it is not so easy drawing in foreign investors to the commodity sectors that contain a wide variety of opportunities from coffee to gold. While the country significantly needs infrastructure investments, global indexes confirm that Colombia is among the countries whose business life and institutions are most effected by terrorism and violence.

In this context, the FARC agreement that was expected to reinstitute public order and trust to revive the economy having faced an obstacle, weakens hopes for the near future. The country is also infested with other nuisances extending from ELN terrorism to the Medellin Drug Cartel. Based on this, even though consolation is sought in the partially reduced violence in the country with the support provided by the U.S. since the early 2000s, there are many ramps on the path to peace.

Yet it should also be noted that the economy of Colombia, which is trapped in such a degree of chaos, was made investment-grade in 2011 by three major credit assessment agencies and helped to skip a few steps with the peace discourse that followed.

Steering away from economy and returning to our starting point: Surely Santos's peace efforts are important. Having said that, it appears that the Nobel was awarded more to encourage what is hoped would be succeeded, rather than to award what has been achieved in the name of peace. On the other hand, the history of Colombia is unable to erase from memory the former pursuits for peace that were tried with the FARC.

Wishing that the people of Colombia find the peace they deserve and dream of…

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