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April 18, 2016
Colombia’s national football team shined through at the recent World Cup in Brazil with James Rodriguez claiming the Golden Boot for scoring the most goals in the competition and the team winning the Fair Play award. Reaching the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup, only just missing out on a place in the Semi-Finals after narrowly losing to Brazil, Colombia saw success both on and off the pitch. The Colombian Defence Ministry rallied by the team’s on-pitch performance began to encourage the armed FARC-rebels out of hiding and towards forming a united Colombia. Further propelled by the recent re-election of President Juan Manuel Santos, the prospect of a Peace Treaty between the two parties and an agreement to end over five decades of conflict that has killed almost 250,000 people looks set to have a bright future.
In an attempt to bridge the gap between Colombia and the two-leftist rebel groups, FARC and the ELN, enticing television and radio advertisements were aired during World Cup matches encouraging the guerrilla movements to demobilise. The advertisement stated that Colombia was saving a seat for them in order to enjoy the football and freedom whilst images showed Colombians of all walks of life gesturing towards an empty seat beside them. In this welcoming show of friendship, the Ministry of Defence was attempting to appeal to the young rebels drawn into the conflict whether that was by force, accident or necessity. The adverts were produced to push to unite Colombia and end the years of conflict in light of the on-going and progressing peace talks.
When former-President Álvaro Uribe began the offensive a decade ago against the rebels, over the years the guerrilla forces have suffered a number of military setbacks. It is worth taking note that in spite of the Government’s progression, the rebel forces are still very capable of inflicting damage on Colombia’s soldiers, the civilian population and even its energy infrastructure with a recent attack on trucks carrying barrels of crude oil. The success of the war against the rebels can be seen in the statistics where although FARC have approximately 7,000 armed members, this translated to a 70% drop in the number of armed rebels compared to the early 2000s. The demobilisation of FARC members continues to grow with an average demobilisation rate of 97 members a month although it is reported that many find it hard or are reluctant to then return to civilian life.
It is becoming more apparent that Colombia is working tirelessly to put behind it the years of drug violence and guerrilla conflict and invent itself as a destination for investment and stability. The peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government started up again this week in Havana with the new set of discussions set to revolve around the delicate subject of what will happen to the victims of the conflict. Many positive outcomes have already been produced from the talks which have been going on since November 2012. One such success has been the government rehabilitation program for previous FARC guerrillas providing psychological aid and training on how to enter modern Colombian society. The speed at which the peace talks and concessions are taking place is due to the FARC organisation realising that they will have a better chance of getting into power and having success through legal and political ways rather than carrying out violent acts.
The Colombian government and FARC rebels have already discussed and agreed on a number of topics ranging from agrarian reform, swapping drug related crops for grain crops to, the political participation of FARC and the matter of destroying Colombia’s illegal drug trade. Still to be spoken about by the two parties involve how best to deal with the victims of the conflict, surrendering arms and how to implement the accords. With no date set for the completion of the peace agreement, nobody really knows when the final peace treaty will be signed and one of the world’s longest conflicts will end. However, following Colombia’s impressive World Cup group wins, and reaching the Quarter-Finals with many hailing their displays on the pitch as some of the best in the tournament, it appears that the time when the football-mad rebels swap their guns and bullets for footballs and peace in Colombia is thankfully getting ever closer.
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