Colombia’s Election Results May Guarantee Support for Peace
Although the continuation of the peace process appears to be the real winner of the parliamentary elections held on March 9, the results could be negatively affected by the return of former President Alvaro Uribe to the Congress of the Republic. The elections saw the Democratic Party led by Uribe, the greatest opponent of the peace process, gain 19 of the 102 Senate seats and 18 of 166 seats in the House of Representatives Center. Although a total of 40 Christian Senate candidates entered the elections, only three were elected, including the former Prosecutor, Vivianne Morales. As a result, the Democratic Party has become the main opposition to the official negotiations that have been going on in Cuba between the government and the FARC-EP guerrillas since October 2012.
According to the analysts of the Centre for Policy Studies at Javeriana University, the reappearance of Uribe in Congress will delay the approval of legislation that would open a clear path for the peace agreement and its further implementation.
After initially working with the current President Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe later became his main opponent, accusing him of having weakened the democratic security program that was the standard of his government during the two presidential periods from 2002 to 2010.
Despite projections that Uribe’s return will delay the peace process, some believe that the former president’s election does not represent a lethal threat to it, considering that 77 of the 102 senators support the “General Agreement on ending the conflict and building a stable and lasting peace.” Rather, his presence could be a positive force in the government, strengthening democracy by forming a credible opposition in Congress, which until now has presented no obstacles to President Santos’ agenda.
Following the congressional elections, an atmosphere of optimism pervades Santos and his team amid growing expectation that he will indeed be re-elected as president on May 25th to continue the negotiation process with the FARC-EP. In his campaign for re-elected, he has the backing of 46% of the newly elected senators belonging to three parties of National Unity. According to the results of surveys and analysis, Santos is expected to be re-elected president because people want to see the continuation of the peace process.
Watching these recent developments, the church hopes that these negotiations will bring about an end to the persecution it has experienced at the hands of this armed group. However, pastors of rural regions such as Putumayo, Caquet� and Guaviare are uncertain if all the fronts or “groups” within the loosely connected guerrilla network will actually cooperate with these agreements. Recent threats against pastors and believers have intensified, and rumors persist of imminent more aggressive persecution against the church in the rural areas.
Brother Pablo, former guerrilla turned distributor of Bibles in areas of persecution, says that even though militants in some regions are interested in demobilizing, there is a huge resistance to this in the southeast where the South Bloc and the Eastern Bloc of the FARC-EP remain strong and do not believe ideologically that they would be able to be reintegrated into society with dignity. According to President Santos, the number of FARC-EP members has now dwindled to 8,000.
Even if the FARC-EP chooses to disband, many fear a migration of former guerrillas to criminal gangs (known as Bacrim), which have also become an engine of persecution against the church. In regions such as Buenaventura and Cordoba, the various Bacrim have developed a fear campaign against pastors and others who influence public opinion.
There is a systematic dismemberment carried out by these criminal groups whose ranks are swollen with displaced guerrilla following the demobilization process started in 2005, when there were approximately 32,000 members of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia. To this is added the threat from new guerrilla groups that are being formed in the west of the country. According to reports from indigenous Christian leaders in Cauca, three groups are forming with leftist ideologies that operate like the FARC-EP and have a similar vendetta against the church.
Father, we pray for peace to rest upon the country of Colombia where guerrilla forces have been powerful instruments of persecution against Christians and those who defy them. We pray for Your will to be accomplished in the upcoming presidential election. We know that true peace will come only as there is a mighty turning to Christ, and so we pray that Your Word, the gospel of Christ, will take deep root in individuals and communities across the country, that peace might reign and the name of Christ be exalted. In the name of Jesus the Prince of Peace, Amen.