How FARC Deal Could Change The Way Colombians Treat Each Other

Decades of war between FARC guerrillas and the government seem to have made aggression a widespread social trait in Colombia that's reflected in cases of domestic violence, bullying at school and a tendency to talk tough. The peace deal could help

Celebrating the peace deal with balloons in Bogota on Aug. 24
Celebrating the peace deal with balloons in Bogota on Aug. 24
Cristina de la Torre


BOGOTÁ â€" Has the prospect of peace in Colombia, a country that has seen five decades of fighting between communist guerrillas and government troops, changed the way Colombians speak to one another?

Tired of war, Colombians may be starting to shed the aggressive discourse that has been prevalent in our society.

People’s tone and words are changing as we approach the moment when we decide whether to continue this war or end it. On Oct. 2, we will be voting in a referendum that decides the fate of a peace deal struck between the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government. By voting, we would also be deciding whether to stop or continue the language of hate and vengeance that has been pervasive in Colombia thanks to the prevalence of drug trafficking and crime.

This is no small feat. The public debate about the peace deal has protagonists who have faced each other in battle. Yet, both sides are changing their talk.

President Juan Manuel Santos has said he recognizes the state's responsibility in the murder of scores of members of the Patriotic Union, a leftist party, in the 1980s and 90s by right-wing paramilitaries and gangsters. General Alberto Mejía, the army chief, has been telling his troops that peace is victory. Rodrigo Londoño, FARC's supreme leader better known by the nom de guerre Timochenko, recently declared that his greatest satisfaction is to have "won peace."

Drenched in tears, Pablo Catatumbo, another FARC commander, apologized "with sincere humility" to the families of 12 kidnapped lawmakers that FARC shot dead in 2007. The response of victims who have faced FARC’s violence may seem to indicate a willingness to forgive if the culprits show they are sorry. Are these signs that Colombia may become a nation whose people have reconciled?

That would be a different country from the one we’ve had so far, which the sociologist Medófilo Medina describes as one of "pervasive violence" that has engulfed mainstream social culture. Colombia has had an "anything goes" mentality where there’s amorality, violence in personal relations, veneration of a militaristic state, and celebration of paramilitaries and guerrillas. In this society, vindictive speech and deceit are the daily currency of political debate, and double standards are a virtue.

Strangely enough, in such a warped society, it was drug money that brought a semblance of order to the chaos, and offered disenfranchised people a chance to rise up the social ladder in remote abandoned districts.

One recalls comments made by a former student of the painter Daniel Segura Bonnett, who jumped out of a New York apartment in 2011. Segura, who suffered from psychiatric problems, had been viciously bullied by his students at a private school for boys in Bogotá, apparently for his effeminate voice. On hearing about Segura’s death, the former student merely said, "We just decided to keep laughing."

If this is the behavior decades of conflict has fueled in our society, then Oct. 2 is the day to take that first step to change it â€" by voting "yes" to the peace deal.

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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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