Colombia’s opportunity for lasting peace


The opening decades of the 21st century have witnessed the dawning of a new Colombia. The nation has turned the tide on a long-running terrorist insurgency to achieve a level of security and stability that has given birth to one of the region’s most dynamic economies. Colombia moved from isolation to regional leadership.

Despite this dramatic progress, Colombia still carries on its shoulders an internal conflict half a century old. But today, there is a real opportunity for lasting peace.

Last year, President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the government had begun talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Shortly thereafter, peace talks commenced in Oslo and have since continued in Havana. In these 12 months — a long time for some, too short for others — the talks have achieved results. Negotiators have reached agreement on two of the six key issues on the table — two issues that address fundamental expressions of the conflict: rural development and political participation. The significance of these accords cannot be underestimated, they are now part of Colombia’s long-term agenda to become a developed country.

Colombia’s rural areas have not progressed at the same speed that urban zones have. Agreement reached on rural development addresses this issue by making historic investments and reforms unlike anything ever seen before. In addition, the agreement on political participation will strengthen and deepen our democracy. For the first time ever, the FARC will have to play by the updated rules of our democratic society. This is good for Colombia and good for the region and the world.

We have never been this close to achieving peace. While many obstacles remain, there is a reason for optimism: In the coming weeks and months, we will seek agreement on additional key issues, such as the solution to the problem of illicit drug trafficking, ending the armed conflict and addressing victims’ rights.

The task of negotiating peace is not easy, but as President Santos said upon embarking on this process, every world leader must take decisive action to solve the fundamental problems of their nation. This is that moment for Colombia. Though our goals are lofty, to continue to advance Colombia’s social, economic and political progress, they must be achieved.

Colombia is not alone in its desire to see lasting peace evolve from this process. In the United States and around the world — from President Obama to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon — there has been a groundswell of support for this effort. A successful conclusion will bolster democratic values in both Colombia and its neighborhood. All polling data show that without question, the great majority of Colombians want peace, not war. We are ready to put the conflict behind us forever.

Entire generations of Colombians have yet to experience a Colombia without violence. It is time to bring peace to the nation and relief to the victims. Colombia is ready to turn the page, and we are well on our way. We all hope FARC understands that fact. It’s their last call.

Luis Carlos Villegas is the new ambassador of Colombia to the United States.

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Tony Lesesne


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    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

Delrish Moss


    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.


    Bill Diggs: Hurt officer’s feelings

    “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, and if I wanted to do nothing else, I wanted to make my mom happy. I was living for my parents, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to go to work and not have to put on steel-toe boots. And here I am in Atlanta, I have finally grown to a particular level of affluence. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was a college kid, wearing a suit, driving a nice BMW going to work everyday. Can’t beat that. I would leave my house, drive up Highway 78, the Stone Mountain area, grab some coffee, go to work. So on this particular morning, there’s a cop who’s rustling up this homeless guy outside the gas station where I was filling up. I’m shaking my head, the cop looks at me. This homeless guy is there every morning. I get in my car and on to the expressway. The police officer comes shooting up behind me. I doing 65, 70. He gets up behind me, I notice he’s following me. I get in one lane, he gets in the lane, I get in another lane, he gets in that lane. He finally flips his lights on, he comes up to the car. I’ve been pulled over for speeding before, I know the drill. Got my hands up here, don’t want to get shot, and I think he’s going to say what I’ve heard before: ‘License and registration, please.’ He says ‘Get out of the car!’ and he reaches in and grabs me by my shirt. He says, ‘So you’re a smart ass, huh?’ Finally he says, ‘License and registration.’ I tell him it’s in the car. He says, ‘Get it for me!’ He goes back to his car, comes back and asks, ‘So where did you get the car from?’ I say ‘It’s a friend of mine’s.” He says, ‘Is it stolen? What are you doing driving your friend’s car?’ I finally asked, ‘Is there a reason you stopped me? You followed me, what’s up, man?’ He says, ‘I’m going to let you go with a warning, but if you see me doing what I’ve got to do for my job, don’t you ever f---ing worry about it.”

Miami Herald

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