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Colombian ex-ministers: Peace is being fired upon from many angles

COLOMBIA PEACE (ADDS VIDEO) | 18 de agosto de 2019

By Juliana Alejandra Franco and Ovidio Castro

Bogota, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- Former Colombian Cabinet ministers Juan Fernando Cristo and Guillermo Rivera believe that the peace accord that was signed to end the lengthy internal conflict is being fired upon from various fronts, including the government of Ivan Duque and certain former guerrilla leaders who have abandoned the process.

"They're shooting at peace from many trenches. The government is firing at it. The objections to the statutorial law of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace is a shot (fired) at the peace accord," Rivera said.

Cristo, meanwhile, said that "The government minimized (the objections) and said that it would only modify six articles of the 159 (in the peace accord), but what it didn't say was that those six articles go to the very heart of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP)."

Rivera and Cristo jointly wrote "Disparos a la paz, la historia desconocida de la implementacion del acuerdo" (Shots at peace: the unknown story of the implementation of the accord), published by Penguin Random House, discussing in the book's 223 pages the details of the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, one of the most important events in Colombia's recent history.

The two attorneys were ministers of the interior under President Juan Manuel Santos, who governed from 2010-2018, and took active part in the signing of the peace agreement that led to the disarmament of the FARC, Latin America's oldest and most powerful leftist rebel group.

The objections made by President Duque of the law regulating the JEP's activities "were not a shot at peace, they were a bazooka blast. Fortunately, Congress and the Constitutional Court armored the peace (accord)," Cristo said.

Last May, Colombia's Constitutional Court ordered Duque to sign the JEP Statutorial Law, given that his objections were rejected by Congress.

The former cabinet ministers and lawmakers agreed with journalist Daniel Coronell, who wrote the book's prologue and said that former President Alvaro "Uribe doesn't like the peace accord because it's Santos's."

"The Democratic Center (party) keeps firing at the peace (agreement) and (former) President Alvaro Uribe is doing nothing but pointing to and stigmatizing the agreement as (one) that granted impunity to terrorism. I think that he's doing it with the aim of increasing the climate of skepticism in some sectors of society," Rivera said.

Cristo said that working to end the internal conflict was not easy given that his own father, physician and Senator Jorge Cristo Sahium, was assassinated by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas on Aug. 8, 1997, as he arrived at his office.

"The deactivation of the FARC violence ... and that of the paramilitaries in the first decade of this century, I think, was important for the country. The remnants of criminal bands remain, a few FARC dissidents and obviously the ELN, who have not grasped the (historical) moment in which Colombia is living," he said.

Rivera was in the forefront of the Santos government's efforts to create security frameworks to protect the lives of social leaders, an issue that he said is linked with the peace pact.

In Colombia, at least 462 social leaders and human rights defenders were murdered between Jan. 1, 2016, and Feb. 28, 2019, according to the Ombudsman's Office.

Cristo said that "I think that the disappearance of the FARC as an armed movement is the best news Colombia has had in the last 50 years."

Rivera agreed, saying that the peace process has brought great benefits to Colombians, especially those living in rural areas.

Both men agreed, however, that there are risks inherent in implementing the peace and changing the mindsets of various actors, admitting that it's not a perfect peace, but they said that the accord was "reasonable."

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