FFor more than 50 years, Colombia has suffered a war that has killed almost 450,000 civilians and displaced to more than 8 million people of their territories. My father, Carlos Pizarro Leongómez, former commander of the M-19 guerrilla movement, signed a peace agreement with the Colombian state after years of insurgency and ran as a presidential candidate in 1990. Forty-seven days after the agreement was signed. , He was murdered. This event changed my life, broke my family and devastated our country.
Now, at last, we may be nearing the end of our national nightmare. On August 7, Gustavo Petro I was sworn in as president of Colombia, joining Afro-Colombian land defender France Marquez at the head of the country’s first progressive government. In his inaugural speech, Petro promised that his incoming government will bring “true and definitive peace” to Colombia. For this, he has invited historical political opponents to the table to reach a common agreement by which both the guerrillas and the paramilitaries lay down their arms.
The call for peace has been building across the country. After Petro’s electoral victory, the last active guerrilla in the country, the ELN (National Liberation Army), requested new negotiations with the government to lay down their arms. Shortly after, a joint letter from dozens of right-wing paramilitary forces, drug cartels and criminal gangs called for a ceasefire to negotiate peace terms. At Petro’s inauguration ceremony on August 7, the cries of the chanting crowd could be heard hundreds of meters away: No more war! No more war.
the unit search has been central to Petro’s presidential program. It is also the reason why so many progressive candidates like myself are now in Congress. Over the course of many months of deliberation, we assembled a broad coalition that encompassed workers, urban professionals, farmers, indigenous peoples, and Afro-Colombians. This alliance, known in Colombia as the Historic Pact, won a historic victory in the March legislative elections and became the strongest force in Congress.
What would it take to win this lasting peace? First, it would mean complying with the peace agreements signed in 2016. At the time, the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla forces undertook extensive internationally coordinated negotiations to end the violent conflict. But the former Colombian President Iván Duque abandoned this agreement as soon as he took office. The consequences have been devastating. Since 2016, more than 1,300 social leaders and the signatories of the peace agreements have been assassinated.
We want to redeem the promise of the 2016 agreements. This includes making provisions for the full reintegration of former guerrillas into society, providing them with economic support to help them find work in their communities. It also means undertaking land reforms to address Colombia’s extremely concentrated land ownership, which is among the most unequal in the world. Finally, it means putting an end to the “war on drugs”, which has seen the entry of weapons to paramilitary organizations that commit crimes against our people in the name of “drug control”.
Peace does not begin with a simple cessation of violence. We need to build the social conditions for a peaceful society. First of all, this means reorienting the Colombian state away from war against internal enemies, real and invented, and towards the development of our communities. It means investing in our people through public schools and hospitals, not riot police; deploy our planes and helicopters to build infrastructure, not to kill our fellow citizens; develop sustainable agriculture in the countryside, not rain down chemicals like glyphosate to put an end to coca production. And it means protecting and empowering women to overcome violence in everyday life and help build peace in our society.
On the campaign trail, Gustavo Petro often framed the election as a simple choice: the old politics of death or a new politics of life. The people of Colombia have already made their choice for him. Our task is to convene everyone, from marginalized communities in the countryside to political opponents in Congress, to start this new peace process.