Civil society, cooperation and peace mobilization in colombia

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The political sectors who drafted the 1991 Political Constitution considered it to be a “peace treaty.” The new constitution followed a decade of political violence and armed confrontations the likes of which had not been seen since La Violencia forty years before. However, despite the unprecedented political pluralism that marked the Constituent Assembly, the failure of the negotiations with the non-participating guerrilla groups —the FARC-, and the ELN— and the absence of significant changes in the mechanisms of access to political representation and their functioning, prolonged yet again the political crisis that had been brewing since the end of the 1970s. These mechanisms continued to be tied to clientalism and corruption, but were now accompanied by a great fragmentation of political groupings and an overwhelming influence of drug traffickers at election time (C. Gonzalez 02/08/2000).
Thus, although the new Constitution democratized aspects of public life and opened some new channels of citizen participation, the almost continual crisis of governability and political violence that followed its promulgation made evident the need for another round of negotiations between the government and the guerrilla (Zuluaga, 1999, pp. 321-26). The objective was to find a solution to the armed struggle, and, a new element, to reduce the drug business associated with it. Any negotiation should both restore social conflicts to the political sphere where they belong, rather than seeking a military resolution, and it should do so under mutually agreed new rules of engagement. Thus, the former insurgents would form part of this new order, going beyond a simple social reintegration into the state that they had been fighting (Arnson, 1999, pp. 1-28).
This round of negotiations initiated in 1992, not without setbacks and interruptions, has faced, however, some radically different conditions to those of the prior decade. This work makes references to those that have facilitated cooperation and mobilization in favor of peace. An overview helps to appreciate the growth of this mobilization against the prolongation of the armed conflict. In the 1970s collective action for peace represented 1.6 percent of the civic struggles. This proportion grew to 19 percent during the government of Virgilio Barco (1986-90), although it decreased to 15.8 percent during the Cesar Gaviria’s term in office (1990-94). This was an indirect result of the expectations created by the new constitution and the demobilization of armed actors during the first two years of the Gaviria government. The proportion of mobilizations for peace, for respect for human rights and against the insecurity of the countryside grew as a result of the escalation of the conflict since the end of 1992. During the first year of Ernesto Samper’s mandate (1994-98) they represented 22 percent of the civic protests in urban areas and 28 percent in rural areas (Fundación Social-CINEP, 1996, p. 17). It should be mentioned, however, that some of the participants in these mobilizations were involved more for strategic reasons than with the aim of innovating and learning about nonviolent practices and normative frameworks or working for greater social justice.
There are a number of reasons for the growth in peace mobilizations. One is the greater visibility of the Colombian armed conflict—in United Nations bodies, international human rights organizations, as well as within the governments of the region and of the European Community and the international community, and with international activists in sustainable development and environmental protection. This greater attention has been accompanied by a change in the agendas of the organizations of international financial and technical cooperation, which have increased support to a variety of groups from civil society. The new attitude is in keeping with a strategy of democratization that differs from exclusive reliance on the state or on market mechanisms (Rabotnikof, et al. 1999, 2-9). This international “opening” favored and coincided with a growing social mobilization for a negotiated settlement to the armed conflict, an event that did not occur in the 1980s. At that time, the dominant vision of the conflict both inside Colombia and internationally was one of state security, associated with the prevailing Cold War thinking. That context increased difficulties for and stigmatized any collective action outside the strategic calculations of the key players of the day.
So, the peace mobilizations of diverse social groups in the 1990s have been a milestone, marked not only by their autonomy from political parties, including the armed actors, but also for the agreement to collaborate among sectors that traditionally have been opponents in other arenas or in prior negotiations. How did this cooperation and mobilization arise outside the traditional parties and armed actors? How did they reach agreements for collective action among such diverse sectors in an atmosphere of blatant political suspicion?

"Natural" divisions, the bipartisan regime, and cooperation
The answer to these questions is relevant because the context predicted a behavior that was the opposite of cooperation. In effect, the political society in Colombian public life has been so dominant that some authors refer to the “colonization” of civil society by liberal-conservative political networks (Pecaut, 1999, p. 226). They have clearly had an effect on the different horizontal associations with a capacity for mobilization, but this influence has not been reciprocal in that they have shown little receptivity to the demands of an organized and collective representation. These networks have responded more to individual demands, forming what has been called a “democracy without citizens.” Such a democracy has no idea of common citizenship that can serve as a barrier to discrimination and in defense of basic rights, or, in this case, that can mobilize to mount joint action in search of peace.
Likewise, the convergence between groups close to the two-party structure and sectors supporting an opposition to the two historical parties is also significant. The National Front (1958-74) and its later evolution marked almost a “natural” public division between two party control and critics of the system. The overseeing over associative realms by traditional party networks, in particular the control of organizations with a potential for opposition such as trade unions or community boards (Juntas de Acción Comunal, JAC), was one of the mechanisms to delineate the inclusions/exclusions defined by the two-party political regime (Romero 1999, pp. 1-8). So the opportunities for “win-win” encounters between these two tendencies in civil society, that is to say, interactions mutually beneficial to each side, had been few prior to the beginning of the 1990s. One of these moments was the Constituent Assembly of 1991 (Romero, 1999, pp. 26-31).
Up to the inauguration of the Assembly the usual interaction was a zero sum game in which the gains for one side necessarily represented losses in equal proportions for the other. This form of relation had begun to change at the municipal and regional levels during the civic strikes that marked the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. These strikes protested rate increases for public services, and their limited coverage and deficient quality, issues that, at that time, were the responsibility of the central government. The effects of this administrative centralization generated a unified reaction in the most affected regions, breaking at the local level the barrier to cooperation and alliances between the two traditional parties and their opposition, a gulf that up until then had been almost unbridgeable. The peace process initiated by President Belisario Betancur (1982-86) also contributed to the gradual dissolution of the barrier, above all with the intellectuals. The same trend evidenced itself in the formation of the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, CUT, in 1986, where liberals, conservatives, communists and other groups belonging to different currents of the left joined together (Romero 1999, pp. 26-31). Beginning with the Constituent Assembly of 1991, these win-win situations became more frequent.
What were the reasons for the growth of these exchanges that proposed cooperation, learning and innovation? In this paper four factors will be explored:
1- A movement within the churches, the Roman Catholic Church in particular, toward a more actively positive position with respect to a negotiated solution to the armed conflict

2- The direct election of mayors (1987) and governors (1992), which permitted local and regional peace initiatives to develop with some degree of autonomy from the central authorities

3- The decision of networks of activists —comprising groups on the left, ex-guerrillas, women’s organizations, human rights organizations, organizations of the disappeared, journalists and actors, trade unions, nongovernmental organizations, and others, to look for a negotiated solution to the conflict 

4- The reaction of individuals and social groups affected by kidnapping and extortion, and those who opted to speak out and mobilize publicly against these acts.

Each of these groups had specific reasons to speak out and to undertake actions supporting a negotiated solution or in opposition to the armed struggle. However, the rejection of the rural and urban “dirty war” and of the military solution as a means to resolve a political conflict was a common denominator (A. Garzon 02/16/2000).
The convergence of these four different threads and their protagonists facilitated rapprochement, debates and collective action for peace. However, the specific circumstance that accelerated events and opened opportunities was the declaration of an “all out war” on the insurgent groups in November 1992. In effect, the Liberal government of Gaviria, through the first civilian defense minister since 1953, promised to bring the subversives to justice within 18 months (Pardo, 1996, pp. 353-87). The presidential prohibition on any contact, mediation or dialogue between the different groups of civil society and the insurgents, or the possibility of establishing regional dialogues with sectors interested in peace, unleashed first, uncertainty and later a great opposition. Some bishops argued for “Colombians' right to peace” and called for civil disobedience to this policy (C. Castellanos, 02/07/2000). This is the context in which the possibilities for a process of convergence, learning and innovation arose.

The "Movement for Life" and discursive renewal
The Jesuits were one of the first groups from civil society to propose the creation of conditions to reach a peace settlement as a primordial objective. Until the middle of 1985 this was a proposition led by groups and individuals within the political society. Conservative President Belisario Betancur gave a substantial push to peace proposals, an effort that contrasted with the adverse position of the two Liberal administrations that preceded him. The Jesuits supported the Betancur peace process although "the overriding objective was to diminish the violence, which had grown to large proportions, over that of peace" (H. Arango 02/18/2000). They sold La Lechuga, a solid gold tabernacle covered in precious stones, which dated from the colonial era, to the Central Bank in 1985 and used the proceeds to organize a fund. The returns to their subsequent investments have financed the Peace Program since its beginnings in 1987.
In its first ten years of operation the program financed close to 1000 projects to strengthen civil society, in particular in conflict zones and poor areas (H. Arango 02/18/00). This intervention included both productive activities and educational projects that worked with poor or marginalized groups. The objective was to strengthen the notion of collectivity and the recognition of subjects with rights. According to its first director, the Jesuit priest Horacio Arango, S.J., the different communities showed a great capacity for responses to specific situations but a great difficulty in articulating proposals for anything larger. On this point, Arango comments, “there was a party-based political hostility, from the left and from the traditional parties, toward this articulation.” This aspect is worth emphasizing, because this excessive factionalism in Colombia public life, the resulting competition for the control of state resources and of the decision-making mechanisms, and the difficulty in cooperation, is the flip side of ongoing harassment from the political sphere to associative autonomy.
One of the initiatives financed by the Peace Program, beginning at the end of the 1980s, was the Movement for Life, the predecessor to one of the main groups that made up REDEPAZ in the 1990s. It was one of the leading organizations of the various demonstrations calling for an end to the armed conflict (A.T. Bernal 02/17/2000). The cooperation between these networks of social and civic activists, the Program for Peace and CINEP —another Jesuit institution— is a noteworthy instance of association. The Movement for Life formed as a result of the dramatic events that surrounded the taking of the Palace of Justice by the M-19 guerrilla movement in November 1985 and the Army reaction. The deaths of approximately 111 persons only 200 meters from the presidential palace, including the majority of the members of the Supreme Court, the guerrilla commandos and employees of the institution caused a great public uproar, especially within the groups interested in the “national dialogue” that the armed insurgency had proposed to Betancur’s government.
One year later, women’s groups that supported a dialogue between the government and the guerrilla, such as Women for Democracy, the Women’s House, and Women of M-19, organized a concert to remember the unfortunate occurrence. It was given the name “Concert with Flowers for Life and Love” and held in front of the ruined building. A manifesto in defense of life and against death was read, and international artists appeared in the event (Bernal). In addition to the women’s groups, the Movement for Life also included journalists, actors and artists, who called themselves “crazy for life.” They carried out a number of playful events in public places in Bogota, defying the strict controls of the authorities and the fear provoked by the warlike political atmosphere. “Collectives for Life” were organized in Pasto, Cali and Medellin, where the participation of women’s groups was equally important. A highly significant event in Bogota was the proliferation of graffiti on the walls and buildings in the center of town and along the main roads, alluding with humor and sarcasm to the violence and to the excesses of the authorities. One of them read "Do..., Re..., Mi... edo".
The movement then turned toward education for peaceful coexistence aimed at youth and children. The experience culminated in the organization of an annual Peace Week, which has been supported by the Peace Program and held without interruption since 1987. During the first event in September 1987, a “Manifesto of Children’s Dreams” was launched that asked children to reflect on the country “that they wanted to see and that they dreamed of." Through workshops in painting and storytelling the children expressed their hopes throughout the week in educational centers. The most often painted figures were “a soldier and a guerrilla fighter shaking hands” (Bernal). This first Peace Week closed with an event attended by approximately 50,000 children, the majority from the public and religious schools, in the main plaza, the institutional and historic center of Bogota. The organization was undertaken by "networks of friends and the tremendous support of parents and the rectors of the schools.” However they faced hostility from political authorities in the capital, who did not approve of the event and ordered the police to clear the plaza, an order that in the end was not carried out, according to Bernal.
Then a “citizens’ consultation for peace” was organized for young people in which they had to answer the question, how do you think that peace can be achieved? In addition to discussion workshops in the schools, other youths traveled through the main centers of the capital interviewing and discussing the subject with their peers. Despite the pedagogic focus and its objective to espouse peaceful coexistence, the hostility of the newly installed Conservative administration of Mayor Andres Pastrana was palpable. Three young people were arrested for disturbing the peace and later liberated through the effects of the Liberal Attorney General of the day, Horacio Serpa. He called the Mayor to remonstrate with him about the arrest, asking, “what kind of gorilla is running the first secretary’s office?” and he then urged the Mayor to liberate the students (Bernal). The response of local authorities to these first peace demonstrations in the 1980s indicates their animosity to anything that did not originate with the two traditional parties, even when the aim was to attain civility and peaceful coexistence.
Although these activities did not get a large media response, they did build a counterpublic or a network of alternative communication and practice. This network, in competition with the official sphere and the radicalized groups, mounted a challenge by setting up an alternative framework for interpreting and making sense of their lived experience of conflict. One of the most significant aspects of these first mobilizations was the linguistic innovation and the intention not to polarize but rather to create symbolic mediations between the parties in conflict. The aim was to join together “the entire country, without exceptions” and so the language used had to reflect this. However, this attempt to “disarm language” did not mean the negation of the conflicts, but rather represented a call to confront them and resolve them in a pacific way (Bernal).
Despite its mission to transcend the divisions of the moment, this position encountered severe criticism. It was attacked from the left for being conciliatory, defeatist, and erasing the social and political exclusions. From the point of view of the liberal-conservative establishment, still trusting in the military defeat of the guerrilla, it was looked with indifference. Even so, the Movement for Life experiment was an attempt to create a common discursive framework for those who were not involved in the armed confrontation and those who were convinced that a negotiated settlement was needed. Likewise, the initiatives that this collective undertook at the end of the 1980s prefigured other actions later developed by REDEPAZ, UNICEF, and Pais Libre, almost a decade later. This trend resurfaced with force after the declaration of an all out war on the guerrilla by the Gaviria government at the end of 1992, but this time it attracted more sympathizers, more powerful allies and support from a number of different social sectors. The alliance knew how to overcome distrust and suspicion to create bridges among groups that until that moment had little in common and therefore to innovate and learn. Like all new roads, it also included risks and errors.

The 1990s: peace and society's participation
During the 1990s, the armed conflict escalated in an unprecedented fashion, despite the hopes for peace and reconciliation that grew out of the approval of the new constitution in 1991. In the same way, paralleling this growth in armed actions, a significant convergence of different groups, institutions and national and international organizations supporting negotiation arose. To the policy of total war civil society counterposed the idea of an "all-encompassing peace" (L. Sandoval 02/03/2000). The size of this confluence and mobilization was something new in terms of the 1980s negotiations. With the exception of the collective regional actions to reduce political violence and reach social agreements, such as those of the banana workers in Uraba, civilian groups tended to participate in the peace negotiations of the 1980s because they had been invited by guerrilla groups rather than as a result of an independent initiative. Strengthening a third position to the two sides in combat contrasts with the general polarization that characterized the civil wars, a situation that had not been present in the Colombian dispute. The search for peace by organized and mobilized social sectors represents a definite posture in favor of a negotiated political solution, an event without precedent in the earlier negotiations (Gonzalez 02/0800).
By the end of 1992 a network of peace initiatives had been constituted composed of twelve different kinds of organizations: popular education centers such as ISMAC; Jesuit institutions (CINEP, the Peace Program and the Social Foundation); human rights organizations (the Colombian Commission of Jurists and the Colombia Legal Center); and regional groups (Working Committee for Life from Medellin, Defeat the War from Santander, and Bogota Initiative for Life, among others). The objective was to articulate the experiences of peacemaking that were springing up all over the country and give force and resonance to their demands. "Many rivers make an ocean," according to the director of the Peace Program (Arango). The process of network building culminated in the first meeting of "antiwar and pro-peace citizen initiatives." It was held in Bogota at the end of 1993 with more than 300 participants from 20 different regions of the country. At this meeting REDEPAZ was created with the main objective of "defeating the war," according to Monsignor Leonardo Gomez Serna, the bishop of the province of Socorro and San Gil in the northeastern part of the country and leading proponent of the initiative.
The initial group received an important influx of ex-combatants from the April 19 Movement, M-19, and was later reinforced by associations of ex-guerrillas, now reintegrated into civilian life, such as those of the Socialist Renovation (ex ELN). The network was set up to advocate for independent representation from civil society and to emphasize educational activities and those of a symbolic antiwar and pro-peace character (Villarraga, 1998 p 72-82). For the ex-combatants, the generalization of violence at all levels had led to a situation in which "arms had lost their luster," and ideas for political change other than the armed struggle were needed (Fundación Social-CINEP, 1996, p 32).
The debates provoked by the agenda building process within the network were enlightening. The idea was to unite rather than separate, although the exclusion of the guerrilla groups was not welcomed by sectors that had something in common with them. These differences were treated in depth in the discussion of human rights and their violation by state agents. This was emphasized by the organizations focused on the defense of human rights through international law, which did not consider the offences committed by the guerrilla. A consensus within the network decided to make visible all offences, including those of the guerrilla. The tension grew with the discussion on paramilitarism and its origin. The group considered that this should not be seen only as a "state policy" but also that it was fed by the tactics of extortion and kidnapping committed by the guerrilla (Bernal).
Another climatic moment was the discussion of the breadth of the public outreach efforts. A change of attitude toward business leaders and military was proposed in the belief that peace was impossible without their participation, opening channels of rapprochement and interchange. To summarize, a process of innovation and learning was initiated in the attempt to develop a peace proposal from civil society. At the same time, the network wanted to transgress the practically "natural" barriers between the two large tendencies of civil society arising out of the National Front and its later evolution. The search for a win-win interaction among social sectors that were considered to be in opposed political and ideological camps and that, at times, did not even view each other as legitimate actors was a further step toward the redefinition of the characteristic antagonism inherited from the days of the National Front.
The decision of Gaviria to bring the guerilla to the negotiating table by force, or to defeat them, contradicted Article 22 of the new Constitution, which stated that the "peace is a right and an obligatory duty" (National Conciliation Commission et al., 1998, p 53). REDEPAZ initiated a fervent national campaign of citizens' consultations, meetings and conferences to enforce this right in 1994-5, with the aim of stimulating a popular legislative initiative and pressuring for regulations on this constitutional article. Also, in association with the Mennonite church, they worked with draft-age youth to ensure the possibility of conscientious objection to obligatory military service. As well, REDEPAZ proposed the creation of local and regional peace councils, and that the legal framework be expanded to include mechanisms of conciliation and mediation (Villarraga, 1998, pp. 75-6). The creation of the National Peace Council by presidential decree in 1998, was a delayed achievement of this campaign, although its unworkability in practice shows the limitations of Colombian civil society to influence political power, or better said, the social autism of the latter.
Governs and mayors, now directly elected, supported different initiatives with different degrees of enthusiasm, although the relentless effects of armed conflict on the civilian population placed the issue of peace in a central place on the different local and regional agendas. During the mayoralty of Gloria Cuartas (1995-97), the Apartado Consensus, in the banana-growing zone of northwest Colombia, attempted unsuccessfully to construct coexistence in the midst of an intense armed dispute. The mayoralty of Bernardo Hoyos (1995-97) in Barranquilla, the fourth largest city of the country, was a successful experience in expanding democratic possibilities.
Another significant experience was the Peace Referendum in the municipality of Aguachica, an agro-industrial and ranching zone in the south of the Department of Cesar in northeast Colombia. The area was the focus of bitter social confrontation over trade union rights and support for the smallholder economy, and between guerrilla (mainly the ELN) and the traditional parties. The referendum was held in mid-1995, on the theme "defeating the violent ones" and utilizing one of the new constitutional tools for participation. The call was supported by the Catholic church, whose priest supported it from the pulpit, the Chamber of Commerce, the outgoing mayor and the defeated candidate for mayor as well as the newly elected mayor Fernando Rincón (1995-97), an ex-guerrilla of the M-19. He was the main proponent of the consultation and his candidacy triumphed thanks to support from the largest faction of liberalism in the municipality (Romero 1997, pp. 34-40).
The proposal was to consolidate a "peace territory" beginning from a popular plebiscite. However, the outcome demonstrates the risks involved. The total vote did not reach the minimum legally necessary to convert it into a "mandate" and the anti-guerrilla tone of some of its proponents, as well as the later consolidation of the paramilitaries as the dominant force in the municipality, ended up polarizing the situation still further. Its critics described the design of the ballot as Manichaean. The question asked voters to select between two alternatives: Yes to war or Yes to peace. Some argued that with this formulation it was obvious that no one would vote for war (Romero, 1997, 34-40).
The later political evolution of the municipality demonstrates the issues involved and the risks of a citizen exercise like that of Aguachica. It seems that it was not sufficient to call for peace, unaccompanied by a demand for democracy and social justice. Likewise, the experience showed that the national context of stagnation or consolidation of negotiations with the guerrilla had an influence on the meaning and final direction that the initiative took. As it developed, in an atmosphere of stagnation of the national peace talks, the referendum slid into a gray territory where confidence, cooperation and the possibilities of reconciliation were not the most likely outcomes. The guerrilla considered that the consultation had been organized against them, the mayor who led it was accused -with no proof- of helping the paramilitaries, and the population continued to suffer the effects of the violence.
Even so, towards the middle of 1995 the peace efforts began to have a significant presence at the national level, although they were not unified. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church organized the National Conciliation Commission, with the intention of mediating and bringing the parties closer together and structuring a permanent national peace policy (National Conciliation Commission et al., 1998, p. 51). In the Commission figured politicians, union leaders, ex-military, journalists and businessmen in addition to the bishops. The bishops' change of attitude was not the result of a reformulation of the role of the church in national life, but rather of the effects of the war on the population (Arango). However, the naming of Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, a conservative and dominant figure within the hierarchy, to a position in the Vatican bureaucracy allowed new voices and ideas to be heard in Colombia. These bishops were less attached to the traditional two-party structure (Arango). This event contrasted with the reticent disposition of the bishops toward the peace negotiations during the 1980s.
For their part, the confederations of workers and trade union groups, human rights NGOs, and activists from the left organized the Peace Committee to contribute to peace-building from a popular perspective (Villarraga, 1998, p. 76). In association with REDEPAZ, the committee held seminars on "all-encompassing peace and civil society" in the main departmental capitals, with participation from workers, indigenous people, women's groups, youth groups, and environmentalists. The intention was to "build a large social movement for peace."
The Jesuit Social Foundation also led a discussion on the convenience of a negotiated solution to the armed conflict from within the private sector. The immediate outcome was the organization of the group Businessmen for Peace, composed of the main business associations: the National Industrial Association ANDI, the National Association of Financial Institutions ANIF, Asobancaria, the National Association of Exporters ANALDEX, the Colombian Society of Agriculturists SAC, the Colombian Association of Small Industries ACOPI, among others. This represented a position radically opposed to that taken by the business class in the negotiations of a decade earlier, when they formed a single voice with the military in opposition to the peace process (Romero, 1999, p. 19). The new attitude could also be noted in the rejection of the war tax proposed by the Samper government and with the criticism of the ineffectiveness of the military spending (Fundación Social-CINEP 1996, p. 17).
Likewise, the office of the High Commissioner for Peace, part of the President's Office, organized with Ecopetrol and USO, a joint plan to discuss energy policy and its relationship to an eventual peace process, a collaboration that they took to the Peace Assembly in 1996. From this event was born the idea to call for the constitution of a Permanent Assembly of Civil Society for Peace, which occurred in 1998. Close to 4000 delegates from throughout the country, representing an impressive variety of groups, experiences and local and regional projects, participated to "construct the peace with democracy and social justice." The event had committed support from the Social Foundation, other entities of the Catholic church and international organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Nations Development Programme UNDP, and was opened by Danielle Mitterand, the widow of the former French President, Francois Mitterand.

The citizen mandate for peace, life, and liberty
Toward the middle of the 1990s the activism of various groups from civil society to open spaces and mechanisms of participation was a fait accompli. These groups sought to pressure the government and the armed actors to reach a solution to the conflict, or at least to respect the civilian population. Meanwhile, the participation of minors in the war grew, the number of kidnapping and forced disappearances of civilians also increased, the displaced population swelled, the numbers of those with war-related injuries increased, the elimination of supposed sympathizers of one or the other band multiplied, as well as the deaths directly attributable to engagements. The new constitutional framework for citizens' referenda offered opportunities to make the voice of voters heard. A first attempt was made with the Children's Mandate for Peace and Rights in October of 1996. Children are one of the first groups to be affected by war and one of the least listened to. With the help of UNICEF and the National Civil Registry Office, REDEPAZ and other NGOs like Semilleros from Medellin organized a referendum on the rights of children in the schools of 300 municipalities, and 2.7 million boys and girls participated. The right to life and the right to peace obtained the most votes out of the twelve rights on the ballot (Bernal).
In the meanwhile, the reaction to another drama caused by the war took on a life of its own. Toward the end of 1996 Pais Libre organized marches against kidnapping in five cities--Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Villavicencia and Valledupar--with a mobilization that exceeded all the organizers' expectations. In Bogota, close to 50,000 people turned out, under the banner "For the country that we want, no to kidnapping." The initial idea of Pais Libre was to help the families of the kidnapped and the victims, once released. In the early 1990s the foundation collected more than a million signatures in a successful campaign for a proposed law against kidnapping. They also supported compensation by the state to those who gave information to the authorities that led to the liberation of kidnapped persons or to the capture of those involved in these deeds. The visible head of the foundation is the journalist Francisco Santos, kidnapped for 8 months by the drug trafficker Pablo Escobar at the end of the 1980s and head of the country's largest newspaper El Tiempo. The foundation also receives support from the private sector in general and from cattle ranchers and businessmen in the agro-industrial sectors in particular. These are the social groups most affected by kidnapping and extortion on the part of both the guerrilla and ordinary criminals (press clippings, Fundación País Libre).
The origins and objectives of REDEPAZ and País Libre did not predict their convergence and cooperation although each one, in its way, represents a way of experiencing the same phenomena--an armed confrontation--and its effects on individuals and concrete groups. The violence of conflict made them equal and placed them in the same terrain of demanding rights and common guarantees for all, something that contrasted with the evident social inequality from which they sprung. The form in which they arrived at agreement for unified action assumed the non-existence of state protection, which had to be redefined and reconstructed once the conflict was overcome. In effect, the invitation of Pais Libre to REDEPAZ to participate in the marches of December 1996 was accepted conditional on the addition of forced disappearance to the protest against kidnapping. Pais Libre accepted, and thus to their cause "that was a dart aimed at the guerrilla, was added the new one against disappearance which was a dart aimed at the state" (Guerrero, 1998, p. 124). The groundwork was laid for a common cause and not only particular issues.
This event had significance beyond the simple addition of forces, which was already an acknowledged achievement. As each group represented one of Colombian civil society's historical tendencies, cooperation between them opened possibilities to repair this by now almost natural separation. Something similar occurred with the creation of the CUT in 1986 and during the Constituent Assembly in 1991. Each time that this historic division was called into question the possibilities of creating an arena for the development of a more inclusive citizenship increased, more people became subjects with rights, and different sectors had to acknowledge each other's existence as actors. This was clear in the case of the anti-kidnapping marches of December 1996. For the first time the sign-waving families of the disappeared met in the streets, shoulder to shoulder, with the families of the kidnapping victims (Guerrero, 1998, p. 124).
This first rapprochement between very diverse sectors perplexed many observers. It was nothing less that the projection of a less class-based image of society, in which class analysis was exchanged for one centered around a common issues or causes, in this case the right to life and liberty. Some weeks afterward, an agreement was reached among UNICEF, REDEPAZ and Pais Libre to hold a referendum that would have the force of a citizen mandate. They needed to take advantage of the local and departmental elections of October 1997 because they would have to have the support of government in order to pay for the referendum. To the idea of the Mandate for Peace and Life the word Liberty was added and the proposal began to take shape. The process of organizing the referendum encouraged interaction among persons and sectors that rarely had the chance to share a common cause, such as member of the Business Council and the trade union leaders, or members of human rights organizations and representatives of economic groups. "We must go beyond the blueprint where the same faces are always around the table," explains the REDEPAZ spokesperson (Guerrero, 1998, p 126-9).
The reactions of the armed actors to the troika were diverse. For the leader of the FARC "the parties and the three powers, now close to an election campaign... want to cover the sun with their hands, looking for this peace vote (Guerrero, 1998,p. 126). The ELN was more receptive and recognized it as an act of popular sovereignty; the paramilitaries showed an interest and publicly supported the referendum; and the military saw it as a opportunity to carry out a "psychological operation" (Bernal). As a leader of the CUT recognized, the call for the referendum was open and served different agendas, so it "can be read in different ways" (El Tiempo, Sept 26, 1997).
The process, which culminated in a vote of close to ten million in support of the citizens' mandate, was an unprecedented exercise in political pedagogy. The same occurred with the mixture of techniques of mass communication and collective action. For example, the use of Internet to inform and stimulate the mobilization of Colombians living abroad was a novelty (Sandoval). This vote was almost three times greater than that obtained by all the presidential candidates six months later. All in all, there was no shortage of people attacking this one and that one of being a collaborator of the extreme left or the extreme right (Ponton, 1998, p. 136).
However, for the CUT president, Luis Eduardo Garzon, as a minimum, the Mandate "linked the people to the discussion of peace, and this is a positive element" (El Tiempo, Sept 26, 1997). For the representative of the exporters, the discussions around the peace issue helped them learn about the proposals of the social leaders apart from their capacities to organize social struggles and this was important (J. Diaz, 02/23/2000). For the spokesperson of REDEPAZ, in addition to having an impact on the public agenda, the legal prohibition of the participation of children under 18 years of age in the war was an achievement. Another outcome was the legal prohibition of civilian involvement in activities of intelligence gathering and standing watch through the Convivir groups and a rapprochement between civil society and the ELN was propitiated. From there arose the assembly in Munich, Germany, sponsored by the German episcopate where 40 representatives of the church, business and social associations and other personalities met ELN delegates. These decided to hold a national meeting between civil society and the ELN in Colombia, which was frustrated with the change of government in 1998.
In summary, the experience of the mandate showed the diversity and number of initiatives seeking peace, which represented not only different efforts but also different perspectives, rhythms and allies that could be involved in an eventual negotiation. On the one hand, REDEPAZ emphasized a civilian proposal, in defense of the population unconnected to the war and for the application of international humanitarian law. They sought a cease-fire and immediate negotiations between the government and the guerrillas. However proposals coming from social organizations had other priorities. In effect, without disagreeing with REDEPAZ's objectives, they gave priority to justice and building social consensus. Likewise, Pais Libre prioritized the denunciation of kidnapping although it was also interested in putting an end to the war. In practice, these differences were reflected in the scenarios, the calls to action, and the allies. However, the degree of cooperation achieved during the campaign for the citizens' mandate was notable, given the striking differences. For a short time some of these historic divisions seemed to evaporate and glimpses of a possible "new country" began to appear.

Abduction, forced disappearance and media coverage
President Andres Pastrana began his term of office in 1998 with the decision to negotiate with the FARC. However, the advances achieved with the ELN during the previous government were not taken into consideration, a decision to which this group responded with reprisals against the civilian population. A series of events turned out to be especially traumatic: the kidnapping of a commercial airplane with 46 passengers on board (April 1999), the kidnapping of more than 100 churchgoers in a mass in Cali (end of May 1999), and the kidnapping of about 10 members of a private fishing and recreational club in Barranquilla the same weekend (May 1999).
The year 1999 had not begun like any normal year. At the end of January three member of Medellin's Instituto Popular de Capacitación (IPC, or Popular Training Institute) were kidnapped by paramilitaries. They were accused of being "guerrilla helpers," and the paramilitary boss Carlos Castaño openly threatened organizations working in the defense of human rights. Victor G. Ricardo, High Commissioner for Peace, defended these organizations and said, "the leaders of human rights are peace-builders," (El Tiempo, 02/02/99). Although the victims from the IPC were liberated, they had to leave the country and the coordinator of REDEPAZ in Cesar was assassinated at midyear. Senator Piedad Cordoba, an energetic voice for human rights was also kidnapped by the paramilitaries, and although she was liberated in a few days, she was also forced out of Colombia.
Pais Libre mobilized and organized marches against kidnapping the length and breadth of the country, with the support of business associations. REDEPAZ, the CCJ, ASFADDES_ and other NGOs also joined the campaign, asking for the inclusion of disappearance. These organizations were working for the recognition of forced disappearance as a criminal offense, which they had not been able to achieve despite a decade-long struggle through several different governments. The absence of legal status for this offense implied a series of legal problems for the families, in addition to the impossibility of prosecuting those engaged in it, generally state agents (Y. Quintero, 03/13/00).
In common with the experience of organizing the Citizens' Mandate, the widening of the original aim —this time adding the opposition to kidnapping and the inclusion of forced disappearance— created an arena of cooperation and a collective front for the defense of a common right, the right to personal liberty. The aim was also to raise societal awareness about the privation of liberty and get society peacefully involved in defending liberty (Quintero). Thousands of individuals and families from all walks of life marched against kidnapping and forced disappearance in the cities of Bucaramanga, Cali and Barranquilla. However, when the moment came to make statements for the mass media, the balance was not maintained; the media emphasized kidnapping and forgot about disappearances (Quintero).

While the organization of the marches was going ahead, its proponents were beginning an advocacy effort in Congress. The campaign sought a law defining forced disappearance as an offense, and once the reform was presented, the campaigners actively worked to advocate for its passage. Likewise, the diplomatic corps was kept informed, particularly the ambassadors from the European Community. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia was very supportive. Something to note is the position taken by the business leaders during the Congressional lobbying. There was intense discussion about whether the project was a strategy to weaken the state and the armed forces, a debate in which ASFADDES, Pais Libre and Mario Gomez, a member of the board of directors of FENALCO (the National Federation of Retailers) participated. Once an agreement was reached, Gomez went to Congress to advocate for the proposal. Despite criticism from some Congressmen and military figures for "running around with those rebels" Gomez maintained his position (Quintero).

For the grand finale a huge national demonstration was planned for October with its epicenter in Bogota. By that time the publicists associated with Pais Libre had converted the "Citizens campaign for liberty, against kidnapping and forced disappearance" into a resounding "No More!", which summarized for the media the sense of the action (rejection of kidnapping) and the context in which it was undertaken. In fact it took on the sense of converting the march into a condemnation of the guerrilla as such, rather than its violent actions, which debilitated even more the peace process. Approximately four million people marched nationally to express their rejection of kidnapping and violence, an event that was converted in the media into a "statement of accounts owing" against the guerrilla. In the opinion of REDEPAZ's spokesperson "No More!" had metamorphosed into something else. The march had not been planned to attack any of the armed actors nor to further polarize the atmosphere (Bernal).
The results of the October march left a bad taste in the mouths of REDEPAZ members and associates. The disaffected sustained their position despite the positive aspects of the effort, arguing that "the oligarchy stole our movement," in the person of the leader of the Santos family, the powerful owners of El Tiempo. This statement was not well received in Pais Libre. The Citizens' Mandate no longer functioned to produce a broad association of groups and became just another NGO, led by one sector of this grouping. An important point for REDEPAZ was that other NGOs that organized around "No More!" were supported by businessmen and economic associations. For these groups the primordial objectives were to stop the war and with that the kidnapping, and they lacked any proposal for social transformation (Sandoval, 02/03/2000). Although the new millenium began with the main actors of the peace process keeping their distance, the bridges had been built and the learning for future activities was accomplished.
The PDPMM: development and peace in times of war
One of the most innovative initiatives in the second half of the 1990s has been the Program for Development and Peace in the Middle Magdalena (PDPMM), led by the Jesuit priest Francisco de Roux, CINEP and the Social Ministry Program of Barrancabermeja’s Diocese. In addition to strengthening civil society, the initiative includes a component of sustainable development and cooperation with state institutions and international organisms, a combination that up to then had not existed, had not even been thought of, in similar interventions carried out by nongovernmental organizations. The PDPMM is located in Barrancabermeja, the hub of the state-owned petroleum industry and its militant, progressive and influential trade union movement. It lies at the center of one of the regions most affected by the armed conflict, with a radius spanning four departments and 28 municipalities.
The program unites several sectors of civil society, agencies of the national government, multilateral banks and international cooperation at the subnational level. It is also a pilot process of democratization—neither state-oriented nor a market solution, strictly speaking. Led by a Jesuit community and the Diocese of Barrancabermeja and with the involved participation of local communities grouped in a "people's network," the PDPMM has succeeded in forming a public sphere as such. This opens the possibility of putting the needs of the poorest groups and zones of the Middle Magdalena on the development and peace agenda as a matter of priority. The objective of the PDPMM is to change what they call the "perverse dynamics" in regional development and to form the bases for a political reconciliation in the Middle Magdalena (Romero 1999a, p. 64-71).
The PDPMM was born out of mutual interest —on the part of the state oil industry Ecopetrol and its union USO— in reaching an agreement on security issues. They sought alternatives to militarization that could protect the pipelines and installations, recognizing that guerrilla attacks on the infrastructure were producing huge economic losses and considerable environmental damage. A social investment in the region was agreed to, an event that laid the groundwork for the program, which has taken on a dynamic of its own that is increasing in scope and importance. Different forces congregate in the PDPMM: the World Bank, a multilateral bank; the UNDP, an agency of international cooperation; and different levels, programs and agencies of the state like the Solidarity Network, based in the President's Office, the Healthy Towns Program of the Ministry of Health, and the National Department of Planning, which used its support to facilitate the approval of the World Bank loans. In addition the church organizations CINEP and the Diocese of Barrancabermeja have participated.
In this joint endeavor professionals and leaders in the region were also incorporated as officials and consultants to the program, and still more important, this has stimulated the conformation of community nuclei in each of the 28 municipalities where they operate. Beginning from these, a network of inhabitants of the Magdalena Media has emerged. Although still in the process of consolidation, it has permitted the direct participation of groups organized at the local level in the selection, design and planning of municipal level projects. The network has become one of the PDPMM’s biggest assets, together with the political and ideological pluralism in its interior. Like the Movement for Life, the PDPMM has created a space in which different voices and proposals that are an alternative to, in opposition to, or coinciding with those of the government, the traditional political parties, or the armed actors, can be heard.
This legitimated voice of marginalized groups is what is known as a counterpublic to the official sphere of the state and its practices, projects and discourse, which does not exclude the possibility of cooperation between the two poles. Moreover, in the case of the Middle Magdalena, the space for communication and practice created by the PDPMM does not dispute the creation of meanings and interpretive frameworks of different state levels and organizations alone, but also those of the guerrilla groups on the one hand and the paramilitary and self-defense groups on the other. It can be said that each action and declaration of the PDPMM is "taking aim at the three camps": there are at least three different audiences carefully observing their work.
There are three main reasons that the PDPMM has become a exemplary project for overcoming poverty and building peace: 1) the diversity of voices, perspectives and interests that speak out inside the network of communication and cooperation; 2) the possibility of prioritizing the needs of the poorest groups and areas of the Middle Magdalena on the development and peace agenda; and 3) the reduced possibilities of corruption in resource management. These are difficult things to achieve in the state institutions controlled at the regional level by the two traditional parties. This type of association between organisms of international cooperation, multilateral banks, state agencies and groups from civil society, including popular sectors as subjects with rights and not as members of a clientele, is compatible with national demands for democratization and participation and with the new international views on social development. These no longer center all the responsibility for development in the state, but rather argue for a positive interaction between state and civil society, two poles formerly considered mutually exclusive, or at least contradictory (Montufar, 1996, 11-23).
By invoking the defense of universal rights as human rights, peaceful coexistence and defense of life, the satisfaction of basic needs and other points, the PDPMM has put on the table the idea of the common or collective good, without confusing it with the state, but recognizing the important of the state for its implementation and stabilization in a complex of rights sanctioned in the law and respected in practice. This also supposes a struggle against corruption in the management of public resources by local administrations, which in many cases are "privatized" by different political networks, including those of the armed actors. The control of the municipalities, especially those that receive revenues derived from oil and gas royalties, has been converted into one of the most contested points of the current armed conflict.
One of the biggest difficulties that the PDPMM has faced is the great distrust of the central state and its local allies in the Middle Magdalena. The exploitation of natural resources such as gas and oil has not had the promised and hoped for effects in the region. The underground riches have not benefited the population, owing to the economic model of an extractive economy and to the absence of solid productive chains (de Roux, 1996). In this situation of suspicion, not only of the "outside" state but also inside the society itself, the work of the PDPMM is hampered by the absence of social capital, defined as the capacity to associate and to create networks of solidarity, confidence and reciprocity —not only within and among the members of different social groups, but also between citizen and state organization.
This capacity of association is related to economic development and has a great deal to do with the synergy between the state and societal groups, of which PDPMM is a relatively successful outcome. However, the skepticism caused by the armed conflict has been a barrier to cooperation and its intensification has turned the region and the city of Barrancabermeja into a territory disputed between guerrilla and paramilitaries, which will demand a large dose of optimism and effort on the part of the project. Even so the result of the initiative up to now have demonstrated the benefits of these new possibilities of association.

The peace mobilization in Colombia has had many facets and many actors over the last 15 years. These have fluctuated between continuing to interact strategically to gain advantages from the conflict and choosing the possibilities offered by cooperation for innovation and learning (along the way, redefining the division of the civil society inherited from the National Front). The dynamic of the unification of the trade movement can also be understood in this way: from an extreme factionalism it passed to cooperation between different rival tendencies and to the creation of the CUT in 1986. As well, what happened with certain political and intellectual sectors during the peace process of the 1980s fits the pattern. The peace mobilization of the 1990s can be located along the same axis.
The convergence of the four factors mentioned at the beginning has facilitated this cooperation and learning process. Different bishops through their Social Ministry programs have joined with other communities such as the Jesuits or the laity to push actions that could lead to a negotiated solution to the armed conflict, or at least a respect for the civilian population. For their part, mayors and governors, now elected and more autonomous of the center, have had to respond to the situations of violence in their territories. So, although the invocation of peace can form part of a strategic play, it is also part of a process of political learning and innovation. This has been clear in the case of the diversity of associations, networks, NGOs, groups and individuals coming from the various currents of the left, who have led actions to pressure for a political negotiation and respect for the civilian population. Their effort is part of a broader aim at consolidating a new paradigm of political change, in contrast to that of armed struggle. Finally the mobilization of business and professional sectors against kidnapping and for an end to the war, and their cooperation with other social sectors, indicate that it is possible, even if only for a brief time, to create the conditions for societal construction. Building an idea of a minimum common citizenship helps to generate confidence among social groups that historically have belonged to rival political networks and to create cultural and institutional barriers to the violation of rights and discrimination.
The size of the marches against kidnapping has led some to think that the peace mobilization in all its forms can be reduced to this one manifestation. The marches have constituted one of its most controversial events and, for that reason, is revelatory. However, this work has tried to demonstrate the complexity and diversity of the peace mobilization with its variety of forms of expressing a collective preference for a negotiated settlement, or at least respect for the civilian population. Its meaning cannot be reduced to a single event such as the marches, which gained fame not only for the number of people involved but for the positive media reception, in comparison with other expressions or processes that have not received such coverage.
Finally, kidnapping has been converted into a genuine scourge for Colombian society. However, its use by authorities, bipartisan politicians, and entrepreneurs as a strategic resource to feed an -understandable- spirit of revenge against the guerrilla, without recognizing other violations of rights that affect specific sectors of the population that are associated with "the left" and by extension with "the guerrilla", closes the possibilities of cooperation. This impedes the development of social conditions that could strengthen institutional and cultural barriers to the violation of rights. Fortunately the different mobilizations for peace over the last decade in Colombia have advanced cooperation among the sectors affected by the different armed apparatuses, leading the battle for respect for, promotion of, and the language of rights. Although without a doubt, there is still a great deal left to do.

Appendix one
Recent Colombian Presidents
Belisario Betancur 1982-1986
Virgilio Barco 1986-1990
Cesar Gaviria 1990-1994
Ernesto Samper 1994-1998
Andres Pastrana 1998-2002

_ The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army) are referred to here by their initials in Spanish, FARC and ELN respectively.

_ Interviews are cited by name and date of interview. Subsequent references may be shortened.

_ Unified Trade Union Movement, hereafter referred to as the CUT.

_ Red Nacional por la Paz (National Network for Peace), or as it is commonly known, REDEPAZ.

_ An example was the explicit decision not to reproduce the division between the “people” or "popular" (which in Spanish is tantamount to saying the poor and is loaded with signifiers of class analysis) and not "popular." This opposition alludes to the class-based depictions of reality that had given rise to the armed conflict, according to Bernal.

_ Fundación País Libre, or Free Country Foundation, is referred to in this paper as Pais Libre.

_ Ecopetrol is the state-owned oil company; its trade union association is the Unión Sindical Obrera, USO, or the Association of Unionized Workers.

_ The CCJ is the Colombian Commission of Jurists, while Asfaddes stands for the Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos (Association of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared).


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