Lapas, Colombia — A half-dozen day laborer slides off a hammock to work on a coca farm hidden in the jungle, harvesting shiny green leaves that turn into cocaine.
In the nearby village of Lapas, the choky white cocaine base acts as a currency and is used to buy bread and beans. And in the community pavilion, wall promotion pays homage to the rebellion that never ends in such a village.
Such a scene was supposed to be a thing of the past in Colombia.
Five years ago, the government signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest group of rebels in war, ending a conflict that raged for half a century and killed more than 220,000 people. I informed you.
Rebels agreed to put their weapons on, and the government promised to fold a long-neglected rural community into the state of Colombia, providing jobs, roads, schools, and better living opportunities. By addressing poverty and inequality, the peace agreement should have eliminated the dissatisfaction that fueled the war.
But one-third of the 15-year term of the contract is that much of its support has not yet reached the Colombian countryside. Armed groups still dominate villages like Lapas.
And experts warn that Colombia’s window to achieve the lasting peace envisioned in the agreement may close.
“They talked about profits,” said coca farmer John Jimenez, 32. “That was a lie.”
Colombia’s 2016 Peace Agreement was one of the most comprehensive in modern history, receiving worldwide applause and the Nobel Peace Prize for then-President Juan Manuel Santos. The United States, which spent billions of dollars in supporting the Colombian government during the conflict, was one of its biggest supporters.
Since then, more than 13,000 FARC fighters have left their weapons. Many are integrated into society. The agreement also established an ambitious transitional justice court investigating war crimes and prosecuting key players.
Five years later, many scholars believe that the peace agreement would have been successful if the signers had not returned to combat. Under these conditions, the treaty is a success. FARC as an institution has not been rebuilt while opposition remains like Lapas.
However, many scholars and security experts warn that the long-ignored rural transformation, the center of trading, is dangerously deadlocked. The government has allowed old and new violence groups to come in and perpetuate the new cycle of violence due to the lack of trust of the local people, experts say.
“Too much hasn’t been done yet., ” In 2016, the government’s top negotiator, Sergio Jaramiro, said.
Conservative President Ivan Duque, who has been in an unpleasant position to carry out transactions against the party since the 2018 elections, said the criticism was groundless.
“There is no slow implementation at all,” he said in an interview. “Not only are we implementing, but the issues we are implementing will be crucial to the evolution of the agreement.”
To secure the rights of poor farmers to land, his office gave thousands of farmers ownership of the land and approved more than 12 regional development plans, he said.
However, Mr. Duquet’s party has formed an alliance with a strong landowner who will lose the most if the land ownership rules are rewritten, and many critics have accused him of delaying his efforts.
Only 4 percent of the agreement’s local reform measures have been completed, according to the Kroc International Peace Institute, which monitors the progress of the agreement. As of June, not only was an additional 83% started, but not at all.
At the same time, security has deteriorated in many rural areas as criminal groups vie for territories owned by previously demobilized FARC.
According to the United Nations, mass murders, mass murders, and killings of social leaders have all increased since 2016, making it increasingly difficult for nations to enter the country.
Analysts have accused both Duque and his predecessor, Santos, of failing to fill the void left by the FARC.
The village of Lapas is down a long, muddy road, more than three hours away from the nearest city. A statue of the Virgin Mary presides over the two main streets of the town. There is no mobile service here, and community meetings are announced via speakers mounted on posts in the center of town.
During the war, Lapas was the territory of FARC. Coca was the main driving force of the economy. Poor peasants chose it, rebel fighters taxed it, drug traffickers turned it into cocaine, and then carried it to US and international buyers.
When the contract was signed, it met with a lot of skepticism and some hope in Lapas, a town whose name means “peace”. The government has included the area in one of its development plans, and coca farmers have been invited to participate in alternative programs to support the cultivation of new crops.
However, subsequent changes were limited. Part of the highway to Lapas is paved. Electricity and ambulances have arrived in some remote towns.
And FARC dissidents remain in the nearby jungle, accepting recruits. Their “law” is described in the manual, from punishment for thieves (death after the third breach) to labor rules (prohibition of wage discrimination) and taxes (must be paid by those who have the means). Is stipulated.
Coca is still dominant.
Rough roads prevented them from putting other crops on the market, and lack of cash kept them out of the mainstream economy, residents said. Town stores accept cocaine base as payment instead of coins and banknotes.
“We know that what we do is illegal and hurt Colombia and the world,” said community leader Orlando Castilla, 65, about coca crops.
“But how else do you make a living?”
At her home down a long dirt path, her 11-year-old mother, Sandra Cortez, 44, was the “half battalion” she called them, and she participated in the Coca Crop Alternative Program. I explained that I was one of the people.
The decision to participate was a leap of faith. It needed her family to tear through their entire crop, representing almost everything they own. In return, she received a one-year grant equal to the minimum wage, a cluster of fruit saplings, some farm equipment, and several visits from engineers who were supposed to teach her new skills. rice field. She wanted to keep a cow.
But soon the subsidy ended, most of the trees died, and the technicians disappeared. She has never received any money or know-how for cows.
Desperately, she sold her land to her neighbor, she said, and now she is borrowing money to feed her children.
“We really thought they would help us,” she said, hugging her for 14 months. “We were wrong.”
Of the 99,000 families who participated in the alternative program, just over 7,000 are doing productive new businesses today, according to the government.
Another morning, a farmer taking a lunch break at a Coca farm on the outskirts of Lapas said he had noticed a change since the peace agreement. The government has dramatically increased efforts to eradicate crops — and with it their livelihoods.
“Today, war is a government against farmers,” said Coca farmer Jose Yarra, 44.
“If I had no other way to make a living, I would have to go to guerrillas,” said another farmer, Jimenez.
Colombia is scheduled to hold elections next year, and the law does not allow the president to run for re-election. Therefore, it is up to Duque’s successor to try to build peace against the backdrop of current distrust and anxiety.
Despite these concerns, some experts said they were still looking at the reasons for cautious optimism.
“Implementation will be consistently more difficult,” said Kyle Johnson, co-founder of Colombian nonprofit Conflict Responses, “not impossible.”
Hours from the village of Lapas, Las Corinas …