[The Colombian people] are who should give dynamism, construction and legitimacy to the peace process, so that it may reach a sensible accord, of national benefit, that should be submitted for popular approval via a national constitutional assembly.
That’s FARC negotiator Jesús Santrich, yesterday in Havana. Santrich is reiterating a guerrilla proposal that the FARC’s dialogues with the Colombian government culminate in a constitutional convention.
This may be the most self-defeating proposal that the FARC has floated.
In a “national constitutional assembly,” Colombians go to the polls to choose “constituents,” representatives who debate, draft and approve changes to the country’s constitution. The last such assembly took place in 1991 after a peace accord with the M-19 guerrilla group.
Has the FARC considered what might happen if Colombians went to the polls to choose constituents today? In a country where the far-right and center-right have won strong majorities in every election in this century? Where the left elects almost no candidates outside of a few principal cities, and where the FARC itself consistently polls in the low single digits?
The likelihood of a very conservative constitutional convention would be high. Right-wing former President Álvaro Uribe and his allies, sworn enemies of the FARC, would have a strong representation. “Can you imagine a constituent assembly presided by Uribe? Can you imagine how many seats we would win? The issues the FARC wants aren’t the only ones that need to be discussed,” Colombian Senator Juan Carlos Vélez, whom the daily El Espectador calls a “pure-blooded Uribista,” told the newspaper.
A conservative or pro-Uribe majority (or even a plurality) could undo some of the progressive reforms in Colombia’s 1991 constitution. It could reject any land and rural development accords that the FARC and government negotiate, and instead adopt something that benefits the country’s largest property owners.
And of course, it could change the constitution to allow the 60-year-old Álvaro Uribe to run for a third term in office. The uribistas might want a constitutional assembly even more than the FARC does.
Why would the FARC want to risk that? A constitutional convention is a politically tone-deaf thing to ask for.