CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, Colombia.— “In the soil of pain, goodness is already bearing fruit!” stated the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, citing a fragment of the country’s national anthem during his speech at the signing ceremony of the peace agreement between the Columbian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP).
Santos stressed that these words, written by President Rafael Núñez in the twentieth century, are imbued with greater meaning in the current context.
The President recalled that the sons and daughters of the nation have been fighting each other for the past 52 years, but that this agreement represents the best possible news in a world wracked by tragedy and terrorism.
“Today, on signing the agreement ending the conflict with the FARC-EP, we hopefully state that this has been a soil of pain, victims and deaths, but we have risen above to say that goodness is already bearing fruit, peace is germinating now,” he proclaimed.
Referring to Cartagena de Indias, the venue for the official signing of peace, Santos noted that it will be remembered as “the city of peace.”
He stated that Colombia and the international community welcomed the agreement.
The President explained that the agreement signed this Monday, September 26, after two years of negotiations, is a statement by the Colombian people, “that we are tired of the war, that we say loud and clear: no more war!” He noted that the war had resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of victims and displaced, and many wounds that are yet to be healed, and called for “no more violence which sowed backwardness. This is the cry of Colombia and it is her decision.”
Santos paid tribute to “all the heroes of the Armed Forces of our country,” and the millions of innocent victims, human rights defenders, and indigenous communities, while calling for no more young people to be killed, for no more deaths, “neither of soldiers or police, campesinos or guerrillas.”
He added that younger generations will be responsible for promoting development and security in the country, that this is what they deserve, and will be possible from this point forward.
Also during his speech, Santos recalled Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, and said that although he did not live to see this moment, he would be happy to see his yellow butterflies fly in the Colombia he dreamed of, the Colombia that secured a second chance on Earth.
Santos acknowledged that the FARC-EP guerrillas, those who were for years his greatest adversaries, were worthy representatives at the negotiating table in Havana.
As head of state, he welcomed the FARC-EP to participate in democracy at this time, as they begin to rejoin society and become a political movement.
Replacing bullets with the ballot box, and weapons with ideas is the bravest and smartest decision you could make, Santos stated.
He added that the agreement is more than the silencing of the guns, “It will allow us to bring more development, will help strengthen democracy, make more effective the struggle of the state against drug trafficking, it will have very positive dividends in the struggle to defend the environment.”
He also said that the document honors the millions of victims by protecting their right to the truth, reparation and non-repetition, where perpetuators of crimes against humanity will be tried and sentenced.
Santos assured that any peace pact is imperfect, as it is an agreement in which the parties have to make concessions; however, he claimed that what has been achieved with the FARC-EP in Havana is the best possible outcome.
“I prefer an imperfect agreement that will save lives, to a perfect war that continues to drown our families in pain.”
The President called on Colombians to leave behind a sad past, and open the doors to a better, brighter future, through the plebiscite to be held on Sunday, October 2. He stressed that in this vote, Colombians will make a choice between the suffering of the past and the hope for the future.
During his speech, Santos acknowledged and expressed his gratitude for the efforts of the government negotiating team, who for several years worked with the FARC-EP to ensure the victory of peace. “Colombia is indebted to you,” he stated.
He also expressed his gratitude to the guarantor countries, Cuba and Norway, for their invaluable assistance, and the accompanying nations during this difficult journey, Chile and Venezuela.
Likewise, he thanked the international community, the United Nations and its Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the UN Security Council, all those countries ready to assist in any way possible, and Pope Francis who with his prayers always encouraged the path to peace.
Santos continued his speech by recognizing that the end of the war is not the end of Colombia’s problems, as there are still many challenges to overcome, but assured that this work will make better progress without the obstacles of war, and that many economic resources previously used for conflict will now be used to benefit the people.
The world celebrates one less war in the world: that of Colombia, he said.
“Colombians, the dreadful night is over,” Santos concluded, again citing one of the verses of the national anthem, and called on Colombians to welcome a new day and the dawn of peace and life, hovering over the skies of Colombia.