Category Archives: Colombia

Friday Film: Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War

Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War (2003) is a documentary about the the drug trade in Colombia and the US efforts to combat the problem. It strongly critiques the ineffectual approach that the US has taken under the so-called ‘Plan Colombia.’ I have written before about how the United States needs to reconsider its appraoch to the war on drugs, and when I first watched it a number of years ago it opened my eyes to the continuing destructive behavior of the US in Latin America, that many believe is a thing of the past. Even now the US is pursuing similar policies across the Andean region.

For more information see IMDb.

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An informative Time magazine interview with Colombian President Juan Santos in which he talks about the FARC, Cuba, relations with the US, and the Colombian economy.


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will host the sixth Summit of the Americas this weekend, April 14 to 15, in the Caribbean city of Cartagena. The hemispheric gathering marks a comeback for Colombia, which is emerging from half a century of crippling guerrilla, drug and political violence and is making a serious bid to be Latin America’s new economic and diplomatic player. The center-right Santos, 60, recently sat down at the Casa de Nariño palace in Bogotá with TIME International Editor Jim Frederick, TIME’s Latin America bureau chief Tim Padgett and its Colombia reporter, John Otis, to discuss the summit, the region’s decreasing dependence on the U.S. and Colombia’s chances for a peaceful end to its long conflict.

(READ: This week’s magazine story on Santos and Colombia’s comeback)

To everyone’s surprise, you recently called for a discussion of legalizing drugs as a way to address the world’s largely failed…

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The FARC ‘Continues Ready to Fight’ According to Leader

FARC leader Iván Márquez reading a statement
Souce: NTN24

I have written about the FARC on a number of occasions now, and I have consistently emphasised the considerable obstacles in the way of peace talks, despite that fact that the Colombian government insists on saying that it has nearly crushed the group. The news yesterday of the death of six Colombian solidiers in the department of Chocó at the hands of the FARC shows that the group is still active and still able to mount effective military operations. The attack appears to have been an attempt by the group to show the Colombian Government and the international community that the FARC continues to be a force to be reckoned with.

In a video that emerged this weekend (although it was recorded on 24th March), FARC leader Iván Márquez assured that the FARC ‘is not weakened’ and that it ‘continues ready to fight.’ The group is obviously keen to stress that the release of ten hostages last week was not a sign of weakness and wants to counteract the message that continues to stream from Bogotá: that the internal conflict is nearly over.  Colombian President Juan Santos’s strategy to portray the FARC as weakened, I would guess is an attempt to weaken the FARC’s negotiating position, but it is probably counterproductive. The FARC will want to arrive at the negotiating table in a position of strength, which will probably mean an increase in violence before a decrease.

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Santos, Colombia and the FARC: Which Way Now?

Source: Reueters

Colombian President Juan Santos said that the liberation of 10 members of the security forces two days ago was ‘a step in the right direction,’ but that it was ‘insufficient.’ Although Santos has not made it clear what the exact conditions for the start of a peace process would be, it appears that they are the following: the liberation of all other prisoners, the cessation of attacks against the civilian population, the removal of land mines, and the abandonment of the use of child soldiers. The conditions that Santos have laid down appear to be reasonable, and, most importantly, the FARC could comply with them without seriously compromising itself. There are, however, still serious obstacles to successful negotiations.

The first major problem is that neither side appears to be especially keen to start the process. The Colombian congress has authorised the deployment of government representatives to start dialogues with the FARC (and also the ELN), but Santos is yet to send a single representative to talk with the FARC. The FARC itself has been very active militarily in the past few weeks, and probably sees little reason to rush to the negotiation table, especially while Santos is still gloating about the 10 members of the security forces that have recently been freed.

The second major problem is that the aims of the FARC are ill defined and perhaps unrealistic. On 9th January, the FARC leader Rodrigo ‘Timochenko’ Londoño commented that, ‘we are open to negotiations in front of the country. We must call into question privatisations, deregulation, the absolute liberty of business and investment, the plundering of natural resources, the rule of the market, and the military’s strategy.’ Since those are all key components of Santos’s political philosophy, negotiations might break down extremely quickly.

The third major problem is that the process of demilitarisation could be particularly problematic. Because Colombia signed up to the Treaty of Rome in 1998, Santos cannot offer amnesties to those that have committed crimes against humanity. What the Colombian Government is considering at the moment is the possibility of giving former guerrillas an alternative sentence that would probably amount to 8 years in prison on the condition that they lay down their arms, reveal the full extent of their involvement in the conflict, and compensate victims. Whether that would be sufficient to tempt the FARC into laying down its aims is unclear.

Santos must make it clear what the exact conditions for peace talks would be, and then it is imperative that the Colombian Government enters the talks with realistic and achievable goals; something that has not happened previously.

The following video from Al-Jazeera discusses some of the issues surrounding potential peace talks:

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FARC Frees Hostages

Source: Reueters

On 26th February, the FARC announced that it would no longer use kidnapping as a military strategy, and that it was ‘time to talk.’ Today, with help from the Brazilian military, the FARC have liberated the final ten members of the security forces that it still held. Although the Colombian Government has declared the hand over as yet another indication of the decline of the FARC, it has happened during one of the most intense periods of guerrilla violence in the last few years. And let us not forget that the FARC still holds 407 other  hostages.

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FARC: On Its Last Legs…Again

In another unwarranted fit of fanfare the Colombian government has announced that it has carried out another operation against the FARC. In the operation, in the province of Arauca, the Colombian Army killed 31 FARC combatants and captured a futher 3. In response to the operation Colombian President Juan Santos declared that, ‘we must continue advancing, with a rifle in one hand and the Constitution in the other.’ Although force and the law are important components of the struggle against the guerrilla groups operating in Colombia, what the government often seems to forget is that there are other components to the conflict. Groups such the FARC, the ELN, the EPL and the M19 formed largely in response to appalling rates of poverty and inequality, as well as the legacy of La Violencia.

The strategy that Santos is pursuing, and Uribe pursued before him, is making a clear impact on the FARC and the ELN. The deaths of Mono Jojoy in September 2010 and then Alfonso Cano in November 2011 were especially important in weakening the capacity and effectiveness of the organisation. To put an end to the conflict, however, a much wider range of strategies must be adopted. A rifle in one hand and the constitution in the other can only get you so far.

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