Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia, is a place that surprises, no doubt about it. Once the stereotype of "narco ciudad", home of the Cartel de Medellín and known as the most violent city in the world, now shows another face, one of vitality, culture, youth; all driven by great urban remodelations. They shout that this is a new era, a new beginning, not only for the city but for their citizens. Fear has been changed and transformed in bright colors and big projects for the community.
The streets, once taken by Narcos, now accommodate museums, parks, festivals (like the great Journalism Festival organized magnificently by Garcia Marquez Foundation every year). A few years ago it was elected by the Urban Land Institute as the most innovative city in the world, among other prizes and distinctions. This new spirit is called "Actitud Medellin", the hope that there is always a chance of a fresh start. Even on the worst places.
Today, that successful peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government are finishing a 52 year war, I wonder about what I saw at a recent visit to Medellin, the strength of their people and their will to move on, no mater what, for the sake of the new generation of Colombians. It's the same spirit, I think, that has inspired President Juan Manuel Santos in this bold move that has had so many difficulties -and still has a long way ahead.
This is a case of true leadership. He saw a possibility -a small one-, of achieving something no less than historic. He decided to pursue, against all odds, this remote possibility of success, and even thou he has the support of world leaders such as Pope Francis and President Obama, he knew that inside his country, critical voices should arise, as it happened. He navigated the complicated waters of negotiation, hard ones; with groups he had nothing in common, on the contrary. All the violence and suffering that the FARC caused the Colombian people made it extremely difficult to avoid hard criticism. But anyway, he persevered and now has delivered this peace agreement that has almost 300 pages. "It's an agreement that that allows to effectively end the conflict and lays the foundation so that violence doesn't come back", said President Santos to El Tiempo.
The road map begins tonight, when FARC Troops will begin their displacement to 28 sites to deliver weapons. A huge step, but lots of key ones come after: the referendum on 2 October, for example, when Colombian people should vote for this agreement. And after that begins the long and sometimes exhausting path of transitional justice that should give Colombian people peace, truth, reparation and justice. Reinsertion of seven thousand guerrilleros is another extraordinary challenge.
In Chile we have lived through situations like this, and we know that it's impossible to fulfill all the expectations. Frustration and anger are part of the deal. But hopefully in Colombia the passionate search for peace -even an imperfect one- will prevail: "Actitud Medellin".