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June 29, 2008
Just in Case You Were Curious (Nudists in Colombia)
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Who knew? Colombia Does Too Have a Nudist Paradise!

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June 27, 2008
Latest Colombian Posts
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Not that anyone is likely to have visited here of late, but I have unrealized plans to refurbish the place.

Meanwhile, my latest posts on Colombian politics can be found here.

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March 9, 2008
Is Colombia ready for a woman President?
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

equinoXio asks.

There is an increasing critical mass of female politicians who are building resumes that might translate into a serious presidential run, although at the moment I wouldn’t predict a female president in Colombia in the next cycle (i.e,. 2010).

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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,1
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.

  1. 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. []
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January 13, 2008
On the FARC and Terrorism
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via trhe BBC: Chavez makes Colombia rebel call

Just a day after helping to broker the liberation of two high-profile hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, Mr Chavez used his annual state of the nation speech to make the appeal, addressing himself to Colombia’s conservative President Alvaro Uribe.

“I ask you (Uribe) that we start recognising the Farc and the ELN as insurgent forces in Colombia and not terrorist groups, and I ask the same of the governments of this continent and the world,” Mr Chavez said.

But Mr Uribe quickly rejected the idea.

He said the insurgents were terrorists who funded their operations with cocaine smuggling, recruited children and planted land mines in their effort to topple a democratically elected government.

“The only thing they have produced is displacement, pain, unemployment and poverty,” Mr Uribe said.

The problem is: they are both correct after a fashion.

The regular application of the word “terrorist” to the FARC and ELN1 both as a descriptor and in terms of public policy is very much a post-9/11 phenomenon. Indeed, I wrote about this development in book chapter published a couple of years ago2 While the FARC3 has been called “terrorists” or “narcoterrorists”4 the regular application of the term “terrorist” comes only after the US declare war on terrorism in late 2001.

The problem with the terms “terrorist” is that it creates an atmosphere in which negotiation is essentially impossible, and if one thing is clear about the situation with FARC, the only likely endgame will be one that features some amount of negotiation. This has been true with every armed group in Colombia that has demobilized, including those portions of right-wing paramilitary groups who have disarmed during the Uribe administration .

And it should be noted that the paramilitaries in question, the AUC (the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia) are, like the FARC and ELN, on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Further, the AUC has a hideous record when it comes to human rights violations and have utilized tactics that could be easily defined as terroristic. They also have clear ties to cocaine trafficking. As such, it is difficult to argue that one simply cannot negotiate with the FARC if one has negotiated with the AUC. It is also worth nothing in that context that the FARC’s history is one that has more elements of an actual political organization than the AUC’s ever did.5

It should further be noted that the FARC did support an overtly political and non-violent project in the 1980s by the creation of a political party, the Patriot Union, which was eventually systematically slaughtered by right-wing paramilitary groups which had ties in many cases to the military. As such, the FARC carry the memory of their allies being terrorized, and therefore use it as fuel to justify their own actions.

All of the above is so say that Chávez has a point6.

Uribe, however, is right as well—the FARC have caused a lot of pain to Colombians, and have also engaged in substantial criminal activity. Even setting aside their involvement in the cocaine industry, they earn somewhere around half of their revenue by kidnapping and clearly have no compunctions about stealing years and years of the lives of whomever they deem a legitimate target.7 Further, they have engaged in bombings and other violence that has threatened and killed innocent civilians.

There is, therefore, no doubt that it is a desirable thing to stop their activities. Four and a half decades of conflict between the state and the FARC have yet to produce a military victory sufficient to stop the fighting. As such, that option appears unlikely to succeed anytime soon (indeed, if ever). If we also consider the role negotiation has played in the past in Colombia, it again would seem that such a route is inevitable if the violence is ever to cease.

None of this is to forgive or justify the FARC’s actions, but rather it is a practical fact that perfect justice isn’t attainable here and that at some point there are going to have be some trade-offs made.

The truly depressing part is that even if some sort of political rapprochement can be achieved with the FARC’s leadership, the bottom line is that money that can be made via drugs and kidnapping will be enough to encourage many “guerrillas” to stay in the field, so to speak. That fact, however, should not dissuade the government from trying. Indeed, the negotiations with the AUC prove that even an imperfect settlement can reduce the violence, even if it can never eliminate it totally.

  1. The The Army of National Liberation, a smaller, less publicaized guerrilla groups that, like the FARC, has been fighting since the 1960s []
  2. “Colombia: Democracy Under Duress” in William J. Crotty, ed. (2005) Democratic Development and Political Terrorism: The Global Perspectives, Northeastern University Press. []
  3. For a variety of reasons, it is better to focus this conversation on the FARC and leave the ELN out of it, as they are smaller, apparently not involved in the drug trade, and have been in talks with the government. The ELN has been known to use kidnapping to fund its activities. []
  4. Although that terms was more likely to have been applied to groups like Medellín Cartel []
  5. Although, granted, it would matter what “political” means, but that is a lengthier discussion than I want to enter into at this time []
  6. Not a sentence I write very frequently []
  7. And not just overtly political targets, either []
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FARC Frees Two Hostages
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the CSM: Colombian leftist guerrillas free two high-level hostages

Colombian leftist guerrillas released two of their most prized hostages Thursday, in a deal brokered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that could pave the way for a broad agreement for the liberation of dozens of others being held in rebel camps.

Politicians Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez were whisked from the jungles of southern Colombia where they had been held for six years to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, into the embrace of their families.

“They are finally safe, they are free,” Ms. González’s daughter Patricia Perdomo told Colombian radio from her hotel room in Caracas, her voice trembling with emotion.

[…]

It’s the most important hostage release in the Colombian conflict since 2001, when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, freed some 300 soldiers and police officers and it’s being hailed as a political victory for Mr. Chávez and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

Excellent news, and something of a surprise, to be honest.

The article suggests that this move could spur talks about hostages held by the FARC and prisoners held by the government. Such talks are badly needed, but a heathy dose of caution is needed to go with any optimism that this event may have generated.

Still, it is a wonderful thing for these two to be back with their families.

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December 19, 2007
FARC Set to Release Three?
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: France ‘to take in’ Farc rebels

A communique stated they would include Clara Rojas, who was kidnapped with former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt in 2002, Prensa Latina said.

[…]

Ms Rojas’ son, who was born in captivity, and a former congresswoman, Consuelo Gonzalez, were the other two persons to be freed.

May it be so, but one is always cautious in these situations. It is a shame that we are talking only about three persons, however.

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December 5, 2007
Colombia in the News
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombia renews hostage swap bid

Via the BBC: Bush urges Colombia trade accord

Via the AFP: Bush, Colombia’s Uribe discuss US hostages

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November 29, 2007
Venezuela Recalls its Ambassador from Bogotá
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Venezuela recalls Colombia envoy.

Part of the “freezing,” it would seem.

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November 26, 2007
Possible Water Woes for Colombia
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN: Loss of Andes glaciers threatens water supply.

And if Bogota has water problems, it also has electricity problems. And having been in Bogota during drought-driven apagones in 1992, I can attest to the fact that such problems are no fun.

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