Elections in 2018 might weaken shaky peace in Colombia

Dec. 18, 2017
Peace in Colombia, once a high-growth oil producer, has lasted a year—mostly.

Peace in Colombia, once a high-growth oil producer, has lasted a year—mostly.

Congress in November 2016 ended 52 years of conflict between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) when it ratified amnesty brokered by President Juan Manuel Santos.

Since then, thousands of FARC guerrillas have surrendered their weapons, moved into government-sponsored housing, and assimilated into Colombian society, legally and otherwise.

But not all of them.

According to a report by Andrea Saldarriaga Jimenez and Juan Felipe Celia of the Atlantic Council, some FARC members reject amnesty.

And new gangs have formed in territory vacated by FARC but not reclaimed by the government.

FARC militancy combined with slumping crude prices to end growth in Colombian oil production estimated by the US Energy Information Administration at 11%/year during 2008-13. After peaking slightly above 1 million b/d in 2013, average annual output sagged to 912,000 b/d last year and 839,000 b/d last August.

In 2015, EIA says, pipeline attacks claimed 41,000 b/d of Colombian oil production.

The peace agreement, important as it is to oil output, faces political hurdles.

It unpopularly allows former FARC members to run for political office; some are preparing for legislative elections in March.

And Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko when he led FARC, plans to run in the presidential election in May.

That development has rattled a public weary of fighting and wary of FARC.

Congress has been slow to pass legislation undergirding the agreement, partly because Santos is losing clout. His coalition splintered in October.

Former FARC members and a public “deeply skeptical” of their intentions, according to the Atlantic Council analysts, are losing patience.

The 2018 votes, therefore, might weaken the agreement, despite a recent judicial ruling protecting the initiative through the next three presidential terms.

“The more the Santos administration is able to accomplish in the next 8 months,” write the analysts, “the harder it will be for the next president to roll back ongoing programs upon entering office in August.”

(From the subscription area of www.ogj.com, posted Dec. 18, 2017; author’s e-mail: [email protected])