The US has once again spoken about efforts for comprehensive peace in Colombia. Betch van Schaack, the Biden administration’s Ambassador for International Criminal Justice, praised the dialogues that the Colombian administration is holding with the ELN (National Liberation Army) guerrilla group. Schaack appreciated Colombia’s determination to achieve a framework for peace to finally abandon political and social conflict.
Favorable to the “Comprehensive Agreement”
Schaack expressed this during an interview with W Radio. The official, speaking on behalf of the US government, praised not only the ongoing dialogues with the ELN for the past year but also the intention of the Petro administration to extend this dialogue to other clandestine armed organizations.
The American Ambassador for International Criminal Justice stated that “in Colombia, a comprehensive peace agreement in 2016 ended half a century of conflict marked by disappearances, forced displacements, and other atrocities and abuses.” The high-ranking US official highlighted that “the agreement has finally given a voice to victims and survivors to seek truth, justice, and reparations.”
Colombia, a Model for Comprehensive Transitional Justice
Beth van Schaack’s words didn’t stop there. The US representative held up Colombia as an example for other countries seeking the path of peace and comprehensive transitional justice.
“Colombia is now a model for societies around the world seeking ways to create a comprehensive transitional justice program that has sequenced and overlapped different mechanisms, but has also implemented a gender-sensitive approach that has allowed the voices of women and girls in all their diversity to be heard and for those responsible for gender-based violence to be held accountable,” Schaack said, highlighting the specifics of the Havana Accords signed between President Santos’ government and the now-defunct FARC in 2016.
The official continued to delve into the Colombian peace experience, highlighting its ethnic focus, which the Biden administration places special importance on. In this regard, Schaack referred to words from Secretary of State Blinken from October of the previous year, where he paid special attention to “the inclusion of marginalized racial and ethnic communities in Colombia’s peacebuilding processes.”
Antony Blinken participated in a session at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in Bogotá, where he spoke in this vein about the peace project being discussed in Colombia. In May of this year, the US denied entry to the country to three former Colombian military personnel due to their involvement in serious human rights violations. The Biden administration also understood that the former general and the two former colonels had not cooperated adequately with the JEP in Colombia, which is why their entry into US territory was not allowed.
Dialogues with the ELN
Asked in the W Radio interview about Colombia’s ongoing dialogues with the ELN, Schaack expressed confidence in the Petro administration’s willingness to reach a positive conclusion. The American Ambassador for International Criminal Justice recognized that the 2016 peace agreement in Colombia had left out groups like the ELN, emphasizing the importance of expanding the peace agreement to include these groups.
“President Petro is working hard to try to incorporate these groups in order to create a more peaceful, democratic, and inclusive society for all Colombians in the future,” said the US government representative.
“We applaud these efforts in peacebuilding and hope that some form of comprehensive agreement can be reached with these organizations to bring peace to all Colombians, not only within Bogotá itself but also in some of the remote regions of Colombia that were most affected during the conflict period and are still affected by violence today, as these groups are still active,” concluded Beth van Schaack.
The statements from the US government representative constitute a significant endorsement of Gustavo Petro’s Paz Total (Total Peace) project. While facing criticism from some sectors within the country, it garners approvals, support, and applause abroad, with an eye toward creating a society that resolves its problems through political, democratic, and peaceful means.