Peace in Colombia not a one-man show

Daniel Villar argues that the Nobel Peace Prize should not have been given to Santos alone

In certain fringes of the press, there has been opposition to awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. He is accused of being soft on the FARC rebels. Others have remarked on the irony of him being awarded the prestigious prize just days after the Colombian electorate (it would be disingenuous to say the Colombian people, given less than a third voted) rejected the peace deal which would have ended a 52 year old war.

My objection to who won the prize isn’t that the deal was too lenient to the FARC (for the record, I am a Colombian citizen who favoured the peace agreement) or that it was ironical (after all, nearly a century of Nobel peace prizes haven’t ended war, so past laureate’s effort’s efficacy are open to doubt), but to the fact that only President Santos won the prize.

Usually, when the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded for ending a war, the award is shared between the two sides, often with the inclusion of a mediator. In 1998, when the peace in Northern Ireland was celebrated, Catholic John Hume and Protestant Jonathan Trimble won the prize. In 1978, when the Camp David Accords were celebrated, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Mohammed Sadat shared the prize. Yet now, in 2016, when the longest running war in the New World is nearly ended by a landmark peace deal, only one side won the award.

Ending a war is like dancing: you need two parties. In this case, the two parties would be the Colombian government and the FARC, a Marxist-Leninist guerilla group inspired by the exploits of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro which has been fighting the Colombian government since 1964. For the past several years, the government and the FARC have been negotiating in hopes of ending the civil war with the help of Raul Castro, the President of Cuba, who has served as an honest broker between the two sides of the conflict.

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Santos was a pivotal partner in this dance of peace. But his own partner was the FARC’s leader, Timoleon Jimenez, better known as Timoshenko. Timoshenko has been the supreme commander of the FARC since 2011. In his term, he has pledged to ensure that the FARC stopped kidnapping and ended its involvement with the drug trade, and has pledged to continue working for peace even after the failed plebiscite.

Raul Castro may not be a Colombian, but he too played a pivotal role in the peace negotiations. Although both Santos and Timoshenko favoured peace, neither could have worked with the other had they not had a mediator. Castro worked handsomely in that role, ensuring that both sides met and not allowing them to leave until they had a workable peace deal.

Of course many more than these three men worked for peace in Colombia, but Nobel rules sadly limit the prize to be shared, at maximum, between three people. And if anyone should’ve won the Nobel for Peace in Colombia, it should be Santos, Timoshenko, and Castro—not Santos alone.