Colombia has been mired in conflict for nearly five decades. Nowhere is it more evident that war is failure, that war is force prevailing over intelligence, that war is death.

But enough is enough. Now that government officials have opened formal peace talks with rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as the FARC), who have been trying to foment a national revolution since the 1960s, every effort must be made to ensure that the country continues moving toward a nonviolent future. A peaceful Colombia will, no doubt, be a more stable Colombia.

The decision by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to launch peace talks with FARC representatives, first in Norway and now in Cuba this year, was a bold one. Santos’ administration could have opted to continue military operations against the rebels, as previous governments have done. The military strategy, however, has two serious problems. One, it won’t finish off the FARC, a resourceful guerrilla movement that finances its activities by producing illicit drugs, mining for gold, and kidnapping people and holding them for ransom. And also, continuing the status quo would only prolong this violent conflict, probably for several more years.

I have heard all the arguments in favor of continuing the war against the guerrillas. Some say that the FARC is a terrorist organization — that killing, kidnapping and drug dealing are things that the rebels will be unwilling to give up, no matter what other opportunities are offered to them. Others argue that the only thing more unbearable than listening to what FARC leaders have to say is the thought that the guerrillas could acquire political normalcy in Colombia and escape punishment after years of violence. Despite all of these concerns, though, Colombia must bet on peace in 2013.

The nation must look to the lessons taught by leaders like former South African President Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates who have showed that enduring conflicts can be successfully dealt with in nonviolent ways. Mandela could have called for an armed revolution against the apartheid government that kept him in jail for 27 years, but he bet on peace, negotiating for full democracy and strict laws against racism. Mandela won, and he was eventually elected president — through ballots, not bullets — of the country that had imprisoned him. The Dalai Lama, forced to leave Tibet in 1959, still believes that nonviolent strategies will ultimately convince China to surrender control of the nation. Recently, in a tweet to his more than 5 million followers, the Dalai Lama repeated that peaceful philosophy: “Past history clearly shows that violence cannot solve problems.”

In Colombia it is painfully obvious that continuing a war against the rebels will only result in more death and little progress. So rather than focusing on winning the war, the government has set its sights on winning a durable peace.

Officials have come to realize that they cannot eliminate every member of the FARC by military force — these days all it takes is one guerrilla with a bomb on an airplane or in a mall to negate that absurd notion. While it may be unsettling and seem unfair if we someday see a former guerrilla fighter in congress, I for one would prefer to see that person making a point by introducing legislation rather than by planting a car bomb in Bogota. Indeed, integration for Colombia’s rebels, political and civil, is the only intelligent option, especially since this war is holding Colombia back on the global stage. While other nations progress and take advantage of new economic markets and technologies, Colombians are stuck pouring resources into a war that has dragged on for half a century, with no end in sight.

I am aware of the ethical impediments to the peace talks. The mantra of free nations when it comes to terrorists is, well, not to negotiate with terrorists, under any circumstances. If the U.S. does not negotiate with al-Qaida, why should Colombia negotiate with the FARC?

The distinction is that the FARC has established a cease-fire through January while the talks continue. Santos’ administration should not waste the opportunity to negotiate with a group that is willing to lay down its weapons. Colombians cannot continue to kill each other when a real opportunity for an enduring peace has presented itself. The time has come to end this conflict.

After all, if words do not work, there is always time for war. Lots of time.

By Jorge Ramos Avalos.

(December 11, 2012)

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”