Colombia government, FARC “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”

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Colombian government chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle today announced an historic agreement on agrarian reform had been reached with the marxist guerrilla group the FARC, six months on from the start of peace talks in Havana, Cuba.

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Santos talks drug decriminalisation and peace in US

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos touched down in the USA on Sunday ahead of an intense round of diplomatic meetings, the highlight of which will be a key-note address to the UN General Assembly.

In discussion with students of the University of Kansas the president today confirmed this speech will focus not only on the peace talks with the FARC – which he revealed will begin in a fortnight – but also drug decriminalisation.

Santos believes Colombia has the ´moral authority´ to talk to the world about a ´alternatives´ to the so-called war on drugs.

The president´s goal is to convince the UN to initiate a series of studies into possible strategies for establishing a new regime of control which he argues will ´strengthen the fight against narcotrafficking´.

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FARC guerrillas ´promise´ to disarm

Colombia´s FARC leader Timochenko today confirmed the guerrillas´ intention to disarm if next month´s peace talks with President Santos´ government are successful.
In an interview with the Communist weekly publication Voz, Timochenko admitted that without a ´true farewell to arms´ any agreement would be worthless.

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A new democratic dawn in Colombia?

Colombia may have one of Latin America´s oldest and longest running democracies but the criticism has always been that hers is a democracy only at the time of an election, that away from the physical act of voting, the society has very little involvement in the running of the country. 2012 is beginning to look like the year this began to change.

Citizen movements are growing more vocal and more active by the day, and what is more important, they are starting to achieve success, forcing the government to change policy and securing the resignation of key political figures.

The isolation of Álvaro Uribe?

¿Pero como así, mijo?

These are worrying times for Colombia´s ex-president Álvaro Uribe, as the political tide turns against him, the media deserts him, and the governing class close ranks behind President Santos.

Is Uribe in danger of losing his political voice?

Uribe is a politician used to the limelight, and unconditional support and loyalty. In 2010 he left power as Colombia`s most popular ever president. And despite the attacks on his government throughout the last two years, he has maintained a strong following not only among those who instinctively share his politics, but among the millions – particularly in rural areas – whose feel their lives improved significantly during the Uribe government as the FARC was pushed back.
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FARC`s PR war a threat to Colombian peace talks?

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos is fighting a public relations war with FARC guerrillas who in days will fly to Norway to start negotiations to end five decades of conflict.

Peace depends on the will of the FARC to negotiate, and the ability of the government to provide the terrorists an alternative to armed combat.

The government has done its part.

Since coming to power in 2010, the president has rushed through a new legal framework of transitional justice that will permit integration of demobilised guerrillas into civilian life; offering a route to legitimate political representation through the power of the ballot box.

But the key question is whether the FARC have done enough to show they too are serious about peace.

Those loyal to ex-president Alvaro Uribe suggest not; pointing to the rebels’ press conference held last week in the safe-house of the Cuban capital, Havana, as evidence the FARC are playing a huge confidence trick.
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Peace in our time

Peace in our time - Colombia-Politics.comColombian President Juan Manuel Santos today set a timetable for an end to Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict announcing that peace talks with FARC guerrillas will begin in October and conclude within ‘months’.

At 12.30pm, to a television audience of millions and flanked by the nation’s military leaders and his cabinet, the president confirmed what for months rumours have dared to speculate; Colombia’s bloody and pointless war could be over next year (before the presidential elections of 2014).
Within the hour, FARC leader Timochenko, took to the airwaves from the safe-house of Cuba. With his professorial beard and camouflage livery the rebel chief spoke at length, spitting out his Marxist hatred, and in the end resigning to the reality that peace cannot be achieved by ‘war’ but only through ‘civilised dialogue’.

Frankly, the game is up for the FARC, and they know it; their dream of a Communist revolution is in tatters as Colombia develops into one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and as its people in record number are lifted out of poverty.

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Peace talks in Colombia – Nine reasons to be optimistic

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday confirmed preliminary talks are underway with the FARC to secure peace in Colombia. Official negotiations are scheduled for October.

Details are yet to be confirmed by the presidential palace and so we must wait for news on the location (expected to be both Cuba and Oslo), who will be present (the Chilean and Venezuelan governments appear set to act as guarantors), and the agenda (to include drug trafficking, land reform, and political representation).

While international and Colombian media alike have welcomed the news, at home in Colombia, there is some understandable scepticism. And in certain sectors there is even hostility to the idea of sitting down with criminals and murderers.

The talks represent the clearest opportunity in the history of the 50 year war to find a exit to this meaningless struggle in which the lives of thousands of Colombians have been sacrificed to a unrealistic and immoral communist revolutionary dream.

The time has come for optimism and this website has ninereasons to dream of peace.
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Dare we dream of peace in Colombia?

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed Monday evening that his government has entered into exploratory talks with the FARC to negotiate an end to 50 years of conflict.

Earlier in the day Venezuelan television channel Telesur reported that that both sides had signed an agreement to advance official peace negotiations scheduled for 5 October, in Oslo; details Santos refused to confirm.

The president has received support from across the political spectrum and in the country’s media. Ex-president Alvaro Uribe, however has denounced his successor as a traitor and an appeaser.

After ex-President Pastrana’s failed attempt to secure peace over a decade ago, and following a recent upsurge in FARC activity, there are also parts of Colombian society sceptical of Santos’ ability to end the continent’s longest-running civil war.

Dare we dream of a Colombia in peace?

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Colombia’s Santos sacks his Cabinet to save his government

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Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos demanded the mass resignation of his cabinet Wednesday in an attempt to re-launch his flailing government, and kick-start the 2014 re-election campaign.
After a catastrophic few months for the president in which popular support for his administration has plummeted, and during which the FARC guerrillas reappeared as major players on political stage, Santos has decided that the fight back must begin.
The nation awaits news of the changes that Santos will make to his ministerial team, but the talk is that they will be wide-ranging and dramatic.

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General Santoyo and the evil of Pablo Escobar

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When General Mauricio Santoyo stood up in a Virginia court room to plead guilty to charges of working with Colombia’s narco-terrorist paramilitaries on Monday, he showed the world that Pablo Escobar’s legacy lives on.

Santoyo’s guilt links him to the Office of Envigado, the criminal organisation of hired guns Escobar established in the 1980s. Although ‘El Patron del Mal’ may have died before his wealth was able to buy him the power he sought, his Medellin Cartel has since transformed into a successful and ruthless political machine.

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Petro’s absent government. Is anyone in charge of Bogotá?

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Gustavo Petro lost yet another key member of his team yesterday as Fernando Rey, head of the Transmilenio, the city’s public transport system, joined the long list of politicians to desert the Mayor of Bogotá just seven months into his four year term.

Rumours are circulating that the Progressives, Petro’s political party, are making succession plans, actively seeking an alternative to their faltering leader.

As Petro recovers at home following a second operation in as many months on a serious brain injury, and as the Mayor’s closest allies one by one jump ship, the nation is beginning to wonder whether anyone is governing Bogotá.
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Juan Manuel Santos – a tale of two presidents

This is my piece published today on Colombia Reports to mark the second anniversary of the start of Juan Manuel Santos’ presidency.

Juan Manuel Santos - a tale of two presidents by Kevin Howlett from Colombia-Politics.comColombian President Juan Manuel Santos appears to be loved abroad but is dangerously close to becoming loathed at home.We are halfway through the four-year mandate and the president’s support is plummeting at an alarming rate. Approval ratings stood at 87% less than a year ago while they now hover below the 50% mark.
The international community thinks so highly of Santos — the shuttle-diplomacy president — that there is talk of his becoming the next U.N. Secretary General.
The contrast at home could not be starker however, with a poll by El Tiempo newspaper this weekend revealing that over 60% of Colombians would not again vote for Santos.
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Colombian Conservatives place President Santos on notice

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As the curtain raised on a new session of congress on Friday, Efraín Cepeda, the director of the Colombian Conservatives, warned of a ‘crisis’ in President Juan Manuel Santos’ National Unity coalition government. The leader of the second largest parliamentary force was speaking after a special meeting of his troops where their presence in this coalition was confirmed, but where it was also conditioned on big change.

Cepeda is exploiting the first serious signs of weakness in the Santos regime; the president is desperate to restore relations with congress, and is starting to look over his shoulder as Alvaro Uribe’s political party takes shape.

Many Conservatives are ideologically tied to Alvaro Uribe rather than President Santos and will be tempted, as we approach the pre-election cycle next year, to join his movement. For Santos the price of their continued support has risen significantly.
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Left-wing López capable of a Colombian presidential ‘coup’?

imageResounding electoral success is not a phrase often used to describe the Colombian left; unsurprising in a country that has endured 50 years of war against Communist insurgents.

If recent polls are right, however, the presidential elections of 2014 are a once in a generation opportunity to redraw the political map. A third of voters appear set to vote left-wing while the right will be split between a Uribe-backed-horse and President Santos.

If a candidate can be found to unite the left, and appeal to those in the centre, then victory is a possibility. There are many names in the frame but only one that can win – Clara López, President of the Polo Democratic Alternative party. The grandstanding polemicists must now give way and let López, a serious politician with real experience, have a shot at the Casa de Nariño.

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A ‘Colombian Bagdad’? Toribio, the FARC’s front-line

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Boos and whistles greeted Juan Manuel Santos this morning as his presidential helicopter touched down in Toribio, south west Colombia.

Santos lands after nearly a week of intense FARC bombardments that have left thousands displaced, and whole streets reduced to rubble.

Over the last decade the FARC have attacked 500 times. The municipal, known locally as ‘Toribistan’, or as Semana magazine put it, ‘Bagdad’, is at the front-line of a terrorist struggle against the Colombian state.

Despite the president’s arrival, the situation remains tense with reports this evening that the FARC have shot down a military aeroplane. At the same time, the area’s large indigenous population, frustrated at the apparent impotence of the state, are threatening to take things into their own hands, taking the fight to both the FARC and the military.

The drama should not be over-played, this does not represent a return to Colombia’s past. But Santos knows that he must seize control, and re-assert his policies on national security.

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Uribe turns Colombia’s political cold war caliente

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Alvaro Uribe parked his tanks on President Juan Manuel Santos’ lawn this Thursday.

At a special gathering of loyal followers in an exclusive club in the north of Bogota, Uribe announced the formation of the Puro Centro Democratico political movement – the platform from which he will fight to return Uribism to the presidential palace in 2014.

For months Uribe has attacked Santos from the bunker of his Twitter account, but over night the cold war turned hot; Uribism is now the official opposition in Colombia.

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President Santos’ fightback?

It never rains but it pours

It is hard for a politician to admit failure or error. But President Juan Manuel Santos started this week by doing just that. ‘We got it wrong’, said Santos told the nation, and ‘there will be corrections’.

Next month Santos celebrates two years in power. For the first year the president enjoyed record levels of public support, often in the 80%s. This honeymoon is now well and truly over, and following a series of difficult political decisions and on the back of a growing opposition from ex-President Alvaro Uribe, Santos has slowly been slipping in the polls. By last weekend, however, support for Santos had, for the first time, fallen below 50%. Santos is 15 points below Uribe’s worst ever poll rating.

How will Santos fightback?

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