The Battle for Peace

The Long Road to Ending a War with the World's Oldest Guerrilla Army

Juan Manuel Santos
Translated by Joe Broderick

This is the comprehensive account of the long and difficult road traveled to end the fifty-year armed conflict with the FARC, the oldest guerrilla army in the world; a long war that left more than eight million victims. The obstacles to peace were both large and dangerous. All previous attempts to negotiate with the FARC had failed, creating an environment where differences were irreconcilable and political will was scarce. The Battle for Peace is the story not only of the six years of negotiation and the peace process that transformed a country, its secret contacts, its international implications, and difficulties and achievements but also of the two previous decades in which Colombia oscillated between warlike confrontation and negotiated solution.

In The Battle for Peace Juan Manuel Santos shares the lessons he learned about war and peace and how to build a successful negotiation process in the context of a nation which had all but resigned itself to war and the complexities of twenty-first-century international law and diplomacy. While Santos is clear that there is no handbook for making peace, he offers conflict-tested guidance on the critical parameters, conditions, and principles as well as rich detail on the innovations that made it possible for his nation to find common ground and a just solution.

“The peace process that was the central policy of Juan Manuel Santos’s two terms as president of Colombia finally reached an accord that ended the fifty-years conflict with the FARC, Latin Americas oldest and largest guerrilla group. Making peace is never swift, simple, complete, or uncontroversial, and the necessary compromises were only reached in the face of many setbacks, fierce criticism, and opposition. The agreement was nonetheless a historic achievement, and it embodies a general recognition that the country’s future is not going to be decided by the violent politics of armed struggle. President Santos’s account of the negotiations—frank, detailed, and generous to those who assisted inside and outside Colombia—has important lessons for peacemakers everywhere.”

—Malcolm Deas, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University

“Santos was able to see—to have the imagination and the vision to see—that this was the moment when you could pivot to peace. This was someone who was completely sincere in his genuine desire to change the lives of the people and to bring peace where before conflict had been the norm for thousands and thousands of people suffering. This was a really tough thing to do. This was frankly tougher than Northern Ireland, tougher I think than any conflict I have been involved in, and I would put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the same bracket. To have taken it this far is an extraordinary achievement. Id say to the people of Colombia: just remember the darkest days of this conflict and what that was like. Debate, by all means, the right way to go forward but don’t let this slip back. That would be a big mistake.”

—Tony Blair

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About the Author

Juan Manuel Santos was president of Colombia from 2010 to 2018 and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. Prior to becoming president Santos had a long career of public service in Colombia, including as minister of foreign trade, minister of finance and public credit, and minister of national defense. Santos prepared for these roles by attending the University of Kansas, through postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics and Harvard University, as a Fulbright Fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and in the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University. While out of government he was a journalist as deputy editor at the newspaper El Tiempo. He currently is founder and chairman of the board, Compaz Center of Resources for Peace, which works for the empowerment of victims, the consolidation of peace, the reduction of poverty and inequality, and the defense of the environment in Colombia and the planet.