BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s government and FARC Marxist rebels have reached partial agreement on the issue of political participation, the second step toward signing a peace deal that would put an end to five decades of bloody war.
The two sides already reached incomplete agreement on land reform, part of the five-point agenda at negotiations that have been taking place in Cuba since November 2012.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had hoped to sign a peace deal before the end of the year while rebel leaders have always warned they needed more time.
No agreed agenda item will take effect until an overall peace accord is achieved.
Here are the agenda points and obstacles they face:
* Land reform was one of the main issues that led the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to take up arms in 1964 as a communist agrarian reform movement. The FARC has long argued that the central government ignores peasants’ rights and needs, while authorities accuse the rebels of abusing people in the countryside with forced conscription and illegal taxation.
* The agreement calls for “an ambitious program of restitution and adjudication of lands” to the rural poor, but the government has said that private property will not be confiscated. The government also agreed to improve services like health, education and housing, as well as infrastructure in rural areas, as it tries to end Colombia’s long history of social and economic inequality.
* This agenda item raises the possibility that the FARC might morph into a political party as has happened with insurgencies from central America to central Africa.
* In a country where leftist political parties have been haunted by the murder of thousands of members of the Union Patriotica (UP) party in the 1980s, this agenda point centers on guarantees for opposition parties. The FARC’s chief negotiator, Ivan Marquez, was at one point elected to Congress for the UP. The massacre of UP politicians, many of whom hailed from the FARC, has been held up as proof that the right may not allow a party led by former FARC members to rise up and win elections.
* After five decades of kidnappings, bombings and assassinations, the FARC’s top leaders have dozens of arrest warrants hanging over their heads. Although temporarily suspended for the peace negotiations, the charges may prevent the seven-member secretariat from holding public office.
* Mid-level commanders and regular fighters, however, might be able run for election. The government may decide, for instance, to designate a certain number of seats in Congress for demobilized FARC members as has been done in the past to try to politically integrate former guerrillas.
* After a dramatic drop in violence following a U.S.-backed offensive launched in 2002, bloodshed has increased over the last four years as security gains appear have ebbed.
* Fighting has continued while negotiations take place in Cuba. Even though FARC rebels engaged in a two-month unilateral ceasefire after peace talks started, the Colombian government vowed to step up military operations and the rebels have increased attacks on oil and mining infrastructure.
* Colombia in recent years has struggled to reintegrate former members of guerrillas and illegal armed groups into the productive sectors of society. Many right-wing paramilitaries who gave up arms in the 2000s joined drug gangs while some FARC members taking part in voluntary demobilization have turned to crime.
* Some analysts have pointed out that the agenda, which was hashed out over two years of secret talks, mentions the “abandonment” of weapons but not the handover of guns.
* A peace deal will not put an end to drug trafficking in the world’s top cocaine producer, given that demand in developed nations is still strong and there is a myriad of illegal groups involved in drug production and trafficking.
* The FARC is considered one of the key players in the drug trade, an accusation it denies. There are concerns that a possible fragmentation of the FARC after peace is achieved may lead many fighters to continue the lucrative trade.
* Once most famous for the flamboyant drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, Colombia’s drug scene has dramatically changed since the 1990s. New criminal gangs have sprung up from the breakup of traditional cartels and the demobilization of drug-running paramilitaries. Unlike Mexican cartels that have dominated headlines with beheadings and massacres, Colombia’s bands have learned from past mistakes and are keeping a lower profile, preferring to co-opt and bribe officials, as well as kill fewer people.
* This agenda point includes issues such as crop substitution and development programs for rural areas that have been tried for years with patchy results.
* The five-point agenda says the least about victims - only mentioning compensation, their human rights and truth. With more than 200,000 killed and millions more displaced, the way in which the government and guerrillas deal with the victims’ demands for justice will be key to preventing more bloodshed and retribution.
* Santos’ administration has already pushed through a law giving reparations to victims, which could cost as much as $30 billion over the next decade. The main questions are: What form will truth-telling take - a commission, trials, or some other platform? Will the agreement deal with military abuses during the long war? Can a deal safeguard victims’ rights while at the same time give incentives for rebels to give up arms?
Reporting by Bogota newsroom; editing by Jackie Frank