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Senator Iván Cepeda discusses the peace process in Colombia

cepedaFor more than 20 years, he has devoted his efforts to the defense of human rights and the search for peace in Colombia. It has not been an easy road. His work to win justice for victims in his nation have cost him threats on his life, several years in exile and unending political persecution.

Iván Cepeda Castro is a man of principle who has dreams and takes action for the good of his country, as a citizen and a political leader.

As a House Representative (2010-2014) and Senator (2014-2018 and 2018-2022) for the Alternative Democratic Pole, he served between 2012 and 2016 as the facilitator of peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) and held a similar responsibility in the dialogue between the Colombian executive and the National Liberation Army (ELN) between 2014 and 2018.

His opinions acquire special relevance in an effort to understand more deeply a number of issues related to the peace process in his nation. He kindly responded to Granma’s questions on current Colombian politics, of notable regional and global interest, taking as a starting point his assessment of Cuba’s role during the talks between his country’s executive and the FARC-EP.

“In each and every circumstance, Cuba’s role was fundamental, decisive, and indispensable, because it created the necessary environment and context for the talks. A role that was especially cautious, respectful at all times of the Colombian state and its government and, of course, also of FARC-EP the delegation. The role of guarantor has been carried out with scrupulous care to avoid crossing the line and beginning to intervene in the talks, attempt to guide them, or deny the independence that each of the parties must have.

“Cuba’s work as guarantor was impeccable, both in contributing to the solution of problems inherent to the talks, facilitating the dialogue, fundamentally the rapprochements at the most difficult moments of the debate that took place at the negotiating table; as well as at the most critical moments, when events outside the talks, the dynamics of the confrontation that continued in the country and another series of issues, such as the fierce opposition of sectors that were not supportive of the dialogue, arose in Colombia.

“In all those tense moments, in all those moments of difficulty in which the talks were in serious danger, Cuba’s work and that of Norway was decisive; both teams of guarantors were focused, precisely, on seeking to resolve the problems. This has also been the case in the implementation of the agreement, in which Cuba – along with Norway and also the United Nations Verification Mission – has played a central role.”

More recently, Cuba also played the role of guarantor in the peace dialogue between the Colombian government and the ELN. What is your opinion of Cuba’s role in this process?

-Cuba has also been fundamental in the dialogue process that has taken place in relation to the ELN. A process which has allowed, for the first time in the history of rapprochement with the ELN, the establishment of a negotiations agenda and beginning the development of points on that agenda.

Unfortunately, the current Colombian government has not shown an attitude congruent with such an effort. It has ignored the role of Cuba as a guarantor country in this context, ignoring the Rupture Protocol that had been adopted and denying, not only the specific role of Cuba as a guarantor country, but also the role of guarantors in general in any peace process.

The attitude of the Colombian government toward these talks, and toward the specific episode regarding this protocol, is an attack, an aggression against the principle of legality of peace talks in any circumstance.

Additionally, some voices in the current Colombian government have launched a series of hostile actions against Cuba

-The government has not only ignored the debt of recognition and gratitude Colombia owes Cuba, given its contribution to the peace process but has also taken an openly hostile attitude toward Cuba’s role in the international arena and, in particular, with regard to peace in Colombia.

This is part of a conception of international relations that this government has developed, totally spineless, absolutely subordinated to the interests of a radical and extremist sector of the White House policy-makers today and that fundamentally obeys the electoral dynamics and the debts that Donald Trump has with a Republican political sector in the state of Florida.

This is what, unfortunately, has led Colombia to assume the sad role of a kind of battering ram in support of U.S. policy toward Cuba, Venezuela and the region in general.

In this sense, among the latest events in your country is the arrival on Colombian soil of the U.S. Security Force Assistance Brigade.

-Colombia has become the platform and the laboratory of the current U.S. government’s aggression policy toward countries in the region. It is evident that it is serving as the lead government in the policy of aggression toward Venezuela and Cuba. We are now witnessing what is called military intervention” by invitation,” that is, the presence of an elite brigade of the U.S. Army Southern Command in our territory, which could easily lead to an international confrontation of a multinational nature, in which not only would Colombia and the U.S. military forces be involved against Venezuela, but also, eventually, in a confrontation with other world powers such as China and Russia. It is clear that this policy is highly dangerous and the current Colombian government is participating in its implementation.

You and other legislators questioned the work of the High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos during a Political Control hearing in the Senate’s Second Committee, at the beginning of June. Can you give us more details on this Congressional hearing?

-We argued in the Political Control debate that High Commissioner Miguel Ceballos has radically transformed the responsibility he has in the government. He should be the official in charge of peace policy and we see that all his efforts have been directed precisely in the opposite direction: in generating obstacles, difficulties and problems to make implementation of the signed Peace Agreement practically impossible and also in preventing the establishment of a peace process with the ELN and, within that arena, of course, contributing to the aggression against Cuba. In particular, having actively promoted, as he himself acknowledges, the inclusion of Cuba on the list of those designated by the United States as countries that do not cooperate in fighting terrorism.

On 15 June, you and other Congress members also issued a statement welcoming the decision of the Iván Duque administration to maintain and consolidate diplomatic relations with Cuba?

-It is very positive that, in statements made by government officials, the status of Cuba as a guarantor country has been reaffirmed, but we consider this to be insufficient. The problem created by the lack of knowledge of the ELN talks Rupture Protocol must be resolved. So the Political Control work, which we exercise as Congress members, will continue and we will take other actions to ensure that the Colombian government meets its commitments, in an integral, full manner.

What actions could the government of Iván Duque undertake in support of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace?

-The only salvation, the only way for the current government to right the country’s course, after the erratic and unfortunate leadership we have suffered these last two years, is to move toward a serious peace policy, which includes the full implementation of the Peace Agreement, the resumption of talks with the ELN and the promotion of a radically different international policy, oriented toward cooperation, integration and the objective of making our region a Zone of Peace.

(Source: Granma)

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