Tag 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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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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od5XEKGkYiY

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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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