César Gaviria governed Colombia from 1990-1994, during which time he fought Pablo Escobar’s Medellín drug cartel and oversaw the civil war between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Recently, the Colombian government signed a landmark peace deal with the FARC to put an end to the 53-year-old war. Gaviria talked with World Policy Journal about the implications of the deal, and how to minimize violence while conducting a war on drugs.
WORLD POLICY JOURNAL: Some have argued that the FARC peace deal offers too much leniency to former rebels—for example, offering reduced sentences in exchange for confessions, and not prosecuting some members at all. Do you think the agreement ensures justice for the people of Colombia?
CESAR GAVIRIA: It’s the first time that a peace treaty has balanced justice and human rights in accordance with the Rome Statute, which codified genocide and crimes against humanity as international crimes. Certain types of crimes, such as those against humanity, will be punished, so it is not a question of too much leniency. Of course, it would have been better if things could have been handled by the justice system, but the FARC have been around since 1962 and the civil war had been occurring for nearly 60 years. The fighting could have gone on for another 20 to 30 years but Colombians wanted to find the right balance between punishing these crimes and respecting the Rome Statute. There is no doubt that the crimes committed against humanity will be punished. What is still not clear though, is how that punishment will be carried out—it may not necessarily mean sending people to jail.