There is no doubt about it, the Plebiscite matters. It will define the future of Colombia. When I heard about the Plebiscite I naively thought to myself that everyone would vote ‘yes’. However, when I had conversations with the people in my community, I was hit with the reality that the peace process is more complicated then what meets the eye.
In the past month I talked with 3 people in my community about the Plebiscite and the peace accords. I found out that they each want nothing more then for a stable and lasting peace in their country. All 3 of these community members view the peace accords as a step forward for peace. They recognize how monumental it is for 2 enemies, the FARC and the government, to sit face to face and come to an agreement. They know that having less people with guns is a positive outcome; it means a safer Colombia for their children. They do not wish violence on anyone, even their enemies. For these reasons, they will each be voting ‘yes’ in the Plebiscite.
However, with this said, all 3 of these people are victims of violence and this clearly overshadows how they view the peace accords. In 1996, the Colombian military committed a massacre in Pichilin, causing the people to displace. For the people in Pichilin, on one hand they see the peace accords as a step forward, but on the other hand they do not feel there is justice for the victims. Though the people in Pichilin were not directly victimized by the FARC, they feel that in any situation the victims should be included fairly and justly in the peace process. Right now they perceive the FARC as the greatest benefiters of the peace accords. They are finding it difficult to comprehend how the people that caused the violence are benefitting from the peace process. This is especially difficult to comprehend for the people in Pichilin because they have been through several different peace processes in their community and since the end of the period of violence, their lives have not improved much. As Campesinos, they are still tirelessly working their land, often with hunger and times of great poverty and the peace processes they were apart of did not benefit them, the victims. The people in Pichilin are concerned that the same thing will happen to the victims of the FARC, that they will not feel justified through the peace process.
It is in these conversations, with campesinos and victims of the violence, you can start to understand the complexity of the peace process; it is more complicated then a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’. In Pichilin, they want nothing more then peace, a better future for their children, but they are conflicted about the peace process. They are essentially voting ‘yes’ to a process that they feel excluded the victims and will not bring a ‘just peace’.
However, nevertheless, the members of my community have chosen to put their personal struggles aside, and vote ‘yes’. They have chosen to put their faith and hope in a better future, to move forward, and to start to construct peace in their country.
One of the people I talked with gave me a great analogy as to why he is voting ‘yes’ that I think is fitting to end this blog with. ‘The plebiscite can be compared to eating bad food. If I eat bad food that makes me sick, I will not eat that food again because it is bad for my body. The same goes with violence. I have experienced violence and I do not want to experience that again, nor for my children to experience it. I want a better life for my children. Voting ‘no’ means more violence, therefore I will vote ‘yes’, without a doubt.’
Disclaimer: the names of the people I talked with were not included because there is fear that their votes could be found out by armed groups and lead to safety issues.