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February 5, 2008
Anti-FARC Rallies in Colombia and Worldwide
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombians in huge Farc protest

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have poured onto the streets of Bogota to protest against Marxist Farc rebels.

The protesters waved flags and wore T-shirts with the slogan: “No more kidnapping, no more lies, no more deaths, no more Farc.”

Some estimates put the number of people protesting in Bogota at between 500,000 and two million

.

Thousands more protested elsewhere in Colombia, and in close to 100 other cities around the world.

While I have argued that the government of Colombia has to negotiate with the FARC, there is also no doubt that the FARC has precious little moral capital to spend with the Colombian population. However, the FARC have no monopoly on reprehensible behavior, ((By this I mean that the government has engaged in its own actions of similar criminality, as have many private citizens in Colombia who decry the guerrillas. As such, there isn’t just actor who has engaged in injustice, which makes the entire situation far more complicated than simply blaming the FARC, even though they desrve much blame.))
which makes the situation a bit more muddled than many would like it to be.

For example, the opposition party, the Alternative Democratic Pole, notes (via the Miami Herald):

Uribe opponents have complained that the conservative president has said little about the estimated 550 persons held hostage by right-wing paramilitaries. But even Carlos Gaviria, president of the opposition Alternative Democratic Pole, a left-of-center coalition, turned up at the Plaza Bolivar in downtown Bogotá, where the marches ended.

Interestingly, the protests were organized, in part, via Facebook. the CSM reports: Facebook used to target Colombia’s FARC with global rally.

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July 30, 2007
What to do With the Paras? (Uribe Seeks New Law)
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Colombia’s Uribe seeks to save peace deal

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe tried to salvage his peace deal with right-wing paramilitaries on Sunday, offering a bill that would allow demobilized militia fighters to run for public office.

The measure is meant to stop the Supreme Court from derailing an accord hailed by the conservative leader as the biggest step toward ending Colombia’s long guerrilla war.

More than 31,000 paramilitaries have turned in their guns over the last three years in a deal promising them reduced jail sentences for crimes ranging from torture to massacre.

The pact was based on the idea that former “paras” would be charged not with common crimes but with sedition, as demobilized left-wing guerrillas have been in the past. This would help them avoid cocaine-smuggling charges and protect their long-held dream of running for public office.

But because the paramilitaries never tried to overthrow the government, and even worked with sectors of the army in their common fight against leftist guerrillas, the Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that sedition does not apply.

The president over the weekend called it a double standard to allow former fighters with the M19 rebel group to serve in Congress, as some members of the disbanded guerrilla army have done, while barring the paramilitaries from doing the same.

Uribe, who denies accusations that he sympathizes with the paramilitary cause, said the court was “ideologically biased” and proposed a law to guarantee political rights to demobilized paramilitaries who are not directly guilty of atrocities.

This is a difficult and tricky situation. If one is an absolutist on the question of the application of justice, it is difficult to see granting amnesty to any of the various violent actors in Colombia, whether we are talking the paras or the guerrillas. On the other hand, the paras have been far more responsible for massacres and displacement in the last two decades and there is ample evidence of unofficial complicity on part of the military.

There is little doubt that the Colombian Supreme Court has a point: guerrillas picked up arms to foment political change, while the paras picked up arms to exact revenge and to protect land and assets (mostly drug land). By the same token, the guerrillas (specifically the FARC) have, since the early 1980s, been more than willing to utilize the drug industry to fund their activities (kidnapping as well).

As such, neither can claim ideological or political purity. And any reconciliation is going to be messy and unsatisfying in the sense of achieving justice (if, by justice, we include a notion of punishment for past crimes committed). There is also the general issue of whether any group that takes up arms against it own state or citizens should ever be rewarded in any capacity.

Of course, if a way cannot be found to get these actors to lay down their arms the alternative is simply continued violence. It is clear that military defeat/the use of force is not going to solve the problem of political violence in Colombia. If we trace the history of the current conflict based simply of the official founding of key belligerents, the FARC and ELN were both founded in the mid-1960s (hence the frequent formulation in the press of a “four decade civil war” and so forth). However, one can easily trace back the precursor of the FARC to fighting during La Violencia (1948-1958). The paramilitaries, in their current form, can be traced back to the early 1980s (although a law allowing civilian “self defense” groups was issued by presidential decree in 1965 and ratified by the Congress in 1968, although it was repealed in 1989, to be replaced by a different iteration in 1994). At any rate, the idea that brute force is going to solve this problem, or that it can be done with perfect justice, is nothing short of a pipe dream (if I may be allowed to deployed said cliche in this context).

(Just some quick thoughts on a complex situation that deserves greater treatment, but I will leave here for the moment).

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July 28, 2007
Government-ELN Talkes Take a Break Without a Cease-Fire Agreement
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Colombia rebel talks break without cease-fire deal

Colombia’s second biggest guerrilla army said on Friday it broke off government peace talks without clinching an expected cease-fire deal, but negotiations will resume in a month.

The latest round of talks, held in Cuba, ended in a “difficult environment,” according to a statement posted by the National Liberation Army, or ELN, on its Web site.

The negotiations, which started in 2005, had been expected to yield a preliminary peace accord by the end of this month.

But discussions stalled over the government’s demand that the ELN identify its troops and concentrate them in one area as part of the deal, Colombia’s chief negotiator Luis Carlos Restrepo told local radio.

At least the talks continue.

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June 4, 2007
FARC Rejects Prisoner Release Move by Uribe
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombian rebels spurn jail deal

Colombia’s biggest rebel group insists it will not release any hostages even though the government has announced plans to free some 200 jailed rebels.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, said the gesture by President Alvaro Uribe was a “farce”.

A Farc statement said the government must first create a safe haven for talks - a move Mr Uribe has ruled out.

Of course, the problem is that the last time the Colombian government granted the FARC a safe haven for the purpose of negotiations (back in the administration of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002)) it didn’t lead to anything aside from a handful of symbolic meetings and a nice place to keep hostages. Indeed, it was the kidnapping of several prominent politicians, including then-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt (who was seeking a meeting with the FARC in the demilitarized zone) that lead to Pastrana sending in the military and ending the zone.

As such, the idea that the FARC is going to get another demilitarized zone strikes me as sheer fantasy-especially from the Uribe administration. Of course, they likely know this and may be making such demands simply so that they can try and blame the government on the lack of peace talks when, in fact, they are the ones who don’t want to talk.

I will say that the FARC may have a point when they say that Uribe has decided to engage in the prisoner release at this time to generate positive press in the face of the para-politics scandal:

The plan was merely an attempt by the president to divert attention from a scandal linking some of his political allies to illegal paramilitary groups, the statement said.

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May 25, 2007
Progess in the ELN-Government Talks?
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Adam Isacson has an interview (video with English subtitles) with fomer ELN member León Valencia on the subject of the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the ELN:León Valencia: ELN cease-fire likely by July.

This all sounds quite encouraging.

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Dealing with the Parapoliticians
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Adam Isacson at CIP’s Plan Colombia and Beyond blog has an interesting proposal for dealing with the parapoliticians: Para-politicians out of jail? Perhaps, but not yet .

Upon a first reading I say that I think he makes a number of very valid points. Of the most salient is the notion that how this situation is handled will have implications for any future negotiations with the FARC and ELN mean that the government needs to carefully consider how to proceed.

Filed under: Parapolitica, FARC, Guerrillas, Paramilitares | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
April 19, 2007
Progress with the ELN
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombia backs ELN ceasefire plan

Colombia’s government has agreed to a temporary ceasefire proposed by the country’s second-largest rebel group, its senior peace negotiator has said.

Peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said any accord with the National Liberation Army (ELN) would not begin until rebels ended their campaign.

No specific details of the “temporary and experimental” ceasefire have been agreed yet, Mr Restrepo said.

[…]

The ELN proposed the ceasefire agreement on Monday, saying it was ready to begin temporary disarmament in an effort to create a viable atmosphere for peace.

Now the government of President Alvaro Uribe appears to have agreed to the proposal, under strict conditions.

“We accept the proposal that the ceasefire be experimental and temporary,” Mr Restrepo said.

Hopefully these talks will actually lead to demobilization.

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March 13, 2007
Garcia Marquez to Join in Talks with ELN
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Nobel laureate in Colombia talks

Nobel Prize-winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is to join peace talks between Colombia’s government and the country’s second-largest rebel group.

Negotiations over a ceasefire to end a four-decade insurgency by the National Liberation Army (ELN) have stalled, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said.

Mr Uribe gave no details on how the Colombian author would participate.

Interesting. Of course, as the story notes, Garcia Marquez has made symbolic appearances in such talks before, but to no avail.

The ELN is not anywhere as significant as the FARC, but any progress to de-militarize Colombian politics is a welcome one. As such, one can but hope for success in this venture.

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February 22, 2007
Five Years a Captive: Ingrid Betancourt
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

El Tiempo has a special section dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the kidnapping of Senator and presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt by the FARC.

For some stories in English:

  • WaPo: Kin of Kidnapped Colombian Pol Upset
  • Reuters: Uribe says Betancourt may be out of Colombia
    Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, kidnapped by Marxist rebels during her 2002 campaign, may have been taken to another country by her captors, President Alvaro Uribe said on Wednesday.

    “It is a possibility we have been studying. We have heard some versions of this,” Uribe told reporters, declining to give more details.

    Colombia borders Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. Colombian officials say the guerrillas sometimes hide out in poorly patrolled border areas in neighboring countries.

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January 5, 2007
Kidnapped Minister Escapes in Colombia
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Ex-Colombian minister escapes after 6 years hostage:

A former Colombian government minister kidnapped by leftist rebels in 2000 said on Friday he escaped during an army attack on his secret jungle prison and hid in the wilderness for five days before being found.

Former Development Minister Fernando Araujo said in a statement he ran from the camp when army helicopters fired at his captors in the northern part of the country. He was found by an army patrol and reunited with his family on Friday.

That is wonderful news of Araujo and his family. I cannot imagine what being held hostage for such a long period of time would be like.

One can but hope that a similar good end occurs in the stories of so many kidnap victims in Colombia.

Filed under: Guerrillas | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack
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