Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos went to a small town south of Bogotá Tuesday to mark a major milestone in the country’s peace process – but now the hard part begins in Colombia.
In the central Colombian town of Mesetas, Santos joined leaders of the Marxist guerrilla army known as the FARC. Along with representatives from the U.N., they declared the historic completion of the FARC’s disarmament — including the delivery of more than 7,000 weapons now padlocked away.
"Today," Santos said at the ceremony, "Colombians and the whole world know that our peace is real and irreversible."
It was the most important step yet in a process that began last year when Santos’ government and the guerrillas signed a peace agreement. The accord ended 52 years of civil war that has killed more than 200,000 people. Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
But Santos’ conservative predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, insists the FARC has not turned over its whole arsenal. And many rural regions devastated by the conflict say the government has yet to produce enough aid and improvements.
That’s a reminder that the FARC’s handover of its guns is just the beginning of a far longer peace process ahead. The civil war resulted largely from government neglect of the provinces in Colombia, which has some of the world’s worst economic inequality.
Bogotá now has to address that problem to make sure another generation of Colombians doesn’t take up arms.