-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — The Democratic Center, a right-wing political party led by Colombia's former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, was vehemently opposed to the peace deal with the country's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The accord to end nearly a half-century of conflict, which was ultimately rejected in the surprise victory of the 'No' camp in the Oct. 2 referendum, actually would have taken into account many of the concerns of Uribe's camp. But the Democratic Center (DC) has concealed its true intentions and cynically sought to manipulate the public.

It's actually quite easy to understand DC's political strategy. The party wants to gain time by offering proposals impossible to implement so that it can blame the government and FARC if they fail to reach a deal.

Uribe, and the land owners his party represents, have no real interest in the peace process. They oppose three crucial aspects of negotiations with FARC: land reforms, justice for the victims and FARC's participation in politics. The party's proposals are just arguments to hide its real objective — to tangle up the peace process with lies.

When Uribe was president from 2002 to 2010, he denied that there was an armed conflict in Colombia and termed the people it had displaced as "internal migrants." This was the period that had the most forced displacements and land grabs.

It's the land, stupid

A peace deal with FARC would have carved out so-called Peasant Reservation Zones for the poor and required rural land registers to be updated. This was a dangerous proposition for DC, which opposes the restitution of land. It argues that the present owners had bought their properties in good faith. The party wants the ownership of millions of acres of land legalized despite the document forgeries and the intimidation and murder that led to the property being appropriated in the first place. Much land was bought and sold under pressure from paramilitary outfits and death squads.

The Democratic Center also opposes a progressive property tax and rural reforms that would help the poor and build roads in the countryside. DC does not want any reforms that benefit peasants or that undermines the interests of big landowners.

The second major reason why DC opposes the deal is because it calls for a justice system that would correct past abuses and offer compensation to victims. In doing so, the deal would expose alliances with organized crime that have been forged in the country; it would shed light on the theft of land and it would recognize death squad victims who had been misidentified as guerrillas. DC, instead, prefers a system similar to the one devised previously for paramilitary groups, which for years granted impunity to criminals.

The party also opposes FARC's possible participation in politics. DC wants FARC leaders to go to prison. This is not a serious proposal. Why would a rebel group that has been fighting for more than 50 years, and hasn't yet been defeated, sign a deal that would imprison its leaders? Only a deal that ensures the integration of FARC leaders in public life and democratic mechanisms has any real chance of actually working. Anything else is just a populist fantasy unrelated to any real search for peace.