Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the end of the decades-long civil war in his country would bring positive changes beyond the political realm, arguing that peace would have a positive impact on the environment as a result of the end of the cultivation of illicit crops.
“If we end, as we hope, our internal armed conflict ... the dividends for the environment will be huge," said Santos on Monday from the COP21 summit in Paris.
According to President Santos, armed actors in the country such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are indirectly tied to the cultivation of illicit crops such as coca leaves, which is the primary ingredient in cocaine.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, are alleged to partially fund their insurgency through a tax on coca growers. With a final peace deal, Santos argues, the FARC would instead “become allies” in the effort to substitute illicit crops for legal and sustainable variants.
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With a conclusive peace agreement, Santos also argued that “guerrilla attacks on pipelines and against infrastructure … would cease,” which he said had caused the “spill of more than 4 million barrels of oil” in the country’s rivers and seas.
The FARC insurgency has used armed attacks against infrastructure as part of its asymmetrical war against the state.
The most recent incident occurred in June when, according to the FARC, an oil pipeline was inadvertently bombed. The FARC expressed regret over the incident but also highlighted the government's poor track record on the environment.
The rebels have not conducted any attacks against infrastructure since July of this year when the FARC declared a unilateral cease-fire in an effort to help de-escalate the armed conflict and end the five-decade-long war.
The Colombian government and FARC recently agreed to change the format of negotiations during the final leg of peace talks in an effort to speed up negotiations and reach an agreement for the official deadline of March 23, 2016.