Under the slogan “Soy Capaz – I am capable” about 120 companies in Colombia launched a campaign on Monday for national reconciliation amid ongoing skepticism about the Colombian peace talks between the Government of Juan Manuel Santos and the left-wing FARC guerrilla that started in late 2012 to end the 50-year long armed conflict.
To convey the idea that living in peace in Colombia is possible, journalists of competing media outlets, brands with rival products on the market and even soccer teams considered enemies, have joined the campaign.
As stated in the campaign’s text, their goal is to “recognize that we have a problem, to accept that I am part of the problem and the solution, to put myself in the shoes of others, understand that there is more that unites us than divides us and that for my future, for my family and for my country: I am capable”. In Spanish “Soy capaz” is a word play with “paz” meaning “peace” and “capaz” meaning “to be capable of” doing something. In this sense, the campaign sensitizes to the ability of forgiveness, which is so essential to societies in transition like Colombia.
The internal armed conflict has caused so deep divisions in the last 50 years that finding a way to deal with the atrocities seems impossible for many Colombians. How will the FARC become part of political and civil daily life after having committed horrendous human rights abuses? Can Colombians learn to forgive?
“Colombians have to understand that peace building is not a piece of paper, it is not just about signing a document in Havana,” said Marc de Beaufort, the campaign manager. This is why participating brands of the “Soy Capaz” campaign will change their packaging by white covers, cell phone companies will send messages related to forgiveness and the iconic Colpatria tower in Bogotá will be dressed in white lights.
President Juan Manuel Santos said on a TV program on Monday: “We have to raise awareness to forgive, to respect differences, to live with those who are not in agreement with us. This is going to facilitate the transition to peace.”
The Colombian government and the FARC have been holding peace talks since November 2012 in Havana, Cuba. So far, the parties reached agreement on rural development, political participation, and illicit drugs. They are currently debating on victims’ rights and demobilization by the FARC.
Why are awareness campaigns such as “Soy Capaz” so important? High levels of skepticism among the population are a big problem, as the country remains extremely divided. According to a poll by Datexco, published by Colombia Reports, 53% of Colombians oppose the peace talks.
The failed peace process under Andres Pastrana, who agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in El Caguan in southern Colombia, which allowed the FARC free use of the territory between 1999 and 2002, caused a national trauma, because the experiment of the demilitarized zone failed disastrously. Many Colombians don’t want to see the FARC unpunished and thirst for revenge still dominates public opinion. The task facing the negotiators is to come up with an alternative penalization that is sufficiently fitting to persuade Colombians to set aside their skepticism and to approve the overall peace deal.
In fact, on a judicial level, Colombia has been paving the way to peace since 2005 (see Infobox below). But Santos’ predecessor Uribe had focused on military victory over the guerrilla forces. It is the first time in Colombian history that negotiation and peace talks have come so far.
Now it is time for Colombian citizens to “be capable” of accepting that each of us can generate real change and put and end to the conflict that has affected millions of lives, and this will mean to cross our personal line, shake the hand of the enemy, and forgive.
In 2005 the Justice and Peace law, 975 Act, was passed under President Alvaro Uribe to facilitate reintegration into civilian life of members from illegal armed groups. In 2010 Congress passed 1424 Act, which established a non-judicial truth-seeking mechanism that provides benefits to members of illegal armed groups in exchange for agreeing to contribute to truth about the conflict. In 2012 the 1592 Act took effect and for the first time the concept of collective damage was incorporated. A legal framework sets forth a series of integrated transitional justice mechanisms to facilitate the negotiation and achievement of a stable and lasting peace.
For detailed information, check Transitional Justice Mechanisms in Colombia.
>>> 28th Cycle of Talks in Havana
Text: Josephine Landertinger Forero