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In Colombia, the prospect of a lasting peace after 50 years of civil war never has been so promising. At the same time, that promise of peace faces some daunting obstacles.
While neighboring Venezuela descends further into political and economic chaos, Colombia awaits its first presidential election in Maysince the historic 2016 peace accord with the FARC rebel group.
But even this hopeful development is fraught with peril from many quarters.
Despite these obstacles and threats, the hard-won peace is holding in Colombia. There is a recognition of the toll a half-century of war took on this country, and Venezuela’s misery looms as a cautionary tale. I recently visited Colombia in my capacity as president of Lutheran World Relief, an American international development organization, and the most hopeful signs I saw were the steps being taken by local leaders, including politicians, business people and representatives of civil society, to promote a “peace dividend” of stability, transparent investment and economic growth that includes all.
The goal is to stabilize and develop rural areas of the country that have been neglected, or worse, the setting for violence and land grabs. Assisting poor, rural farmers by making markets work for them — and by helping those who grow coca to transition to other cash crops such as coffee or cocoa — will go a long way toward achieving economic, political and social stability.
Daniel Speckhard, The Hill