May 20, 2006
Putting an ironic twist on the cliche, "No justice, no peace," a judge in Colombia ruled that the peace agreement that was supposed to disarm the United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) militias is not valid. Human rights groups say the deal is too lenient, but the alternative is to let the militias continue to operate as they have been, making a mockery of police protection in certain rural areas. See CNN.com. This is a perfect illustration of the imperfect, contingent nature of justice, which cannot be defined exclusively by reference to abstract principles, but must be pursued with due regard for what is feasible given the existing configuration of interests. There are no hard and fast rules about how to proceed. In some fractured societies, justice (and therefore peace) will remain out of reach for as long as leading organized groups refuse to come to terms with each other. That, of course, is the case with Iraq right now. In some former dictatorships or oppressive regimes, such as Argentina or South Africa, the transition to an open, pluralistic system is part of a series of bargains with the bad guys who used to run things, leaving some aggrieved people frustrated.
The news chronology on the Venezuela page is now up to date. Reviewing Hugo Chavez's path to near-absolute power in that formerly free and prosperous country is very sobering. On two or three occasions, his opponents came close to prevailing, which might have changed the course of history in Latin America.