Ending a civil war: Colombia cracks the code?

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THE WORLD is mired in insurgencies, with the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, the persistence of Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine, and the continuing attacks of Boko Haram and Al Shabab in Africa. But at least one seemingly intractable guerrilla war — Latin America’s longest — may be coming to an end. Colombia is poised to reach a negotiated end after 50 years of fighting against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Marxist-Leninist insurgent group known by the acronym FARC. Laudable on their own terms, these talks also shed light on the social changes and negotiating strategies it might take to end other civil wars around the world.

Twenty months of negotiations in Cuba have yielded fruit: provisional agreements by rebels to give up the cultivation of drugs, in exchange for land reform and the opportunity for FARC to convert into a nonviolent political party. One crucial innovation was the unprecedented move to invite five delegations of FARC’s victims to the negotiation table, where they had a chance to confront the militants about their crimes. These interactions help promote truth and reconciliation, and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos’ negotiating team should be commended for incorporating them into the peace process. “At the beginning of the negotiations, [FARC representatives] said they were victims, and that there were no victims created by them,” recalled Luis Carlos Villegas, Colombia’s ambassador to the United States. “Now they have changed. They sat face to face with people who said, ‘You kidnapped my daughter,’ ‘You killed my mother,’ and then had a conversation.” FARC members must acknowledge the harm they inflicted. And when victims feel a sense of closure and accountability, they can more easily accept the painful compromises — such as reduced sentences or even amnesty for FARC members — that are necessary to end the conflict.

Such talks aren’t always possible. The Colombian guerrillas likely wouldn’t be at the negotiating table if not for the relentless military campaign of former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, whose father was killed by FARC. When Uribe took power in 2002, FARC was believed to have more than 20,000 rural fighters. Today, its ranks have dwindled to fewer than 8,000. FARC is willing to end the war because it’s losing.

Also helpful is Colombia’s recent economic growth. The country now attracts some of the world’s highest levels of foreign direct investment. Government spending on education and universal health care has boosted the quality of life. It’s a government radically different than the one FARC was founded to overthrow half a century ago.

Lastly, the United States deserves some credit. A multibillion-dollar US aid package known as Plan Colombia helped the Colombian government combat organized crime and drug lords tied to FARC. In fact, Colombia has been so successful that it is training other countries, including Mexico, in these areas. In a world full of war-torn countries with governments on the verge of failure, Colombia may at last have found the magic recipe to bring about peace.

Source: The Boston Globe -Editorial 9/18/2014

Can Colombia and the FARC Make Peace?

by Daniel Wagner
The nearly half century of war between the government of Colombia and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) that left over half a million Colombians dead and three million displaced may finally be coming to an end. The two sides are currently holding their eighth round of peace talks under Cuban and Norwegian government auspices. The forces that brought Bogotá and the FARC back to the negotiating table are indicative of some of the geopolitical transformations occurring in Latin America.

Street demonstrations prompting the government to reach a settlement have been occurring for years, calling for political unity and a final resolution of the conflict. The tone of the demonstrations has changed since 2006, from seeking the abolition of the FARC to a focus on political settlement. Six months ago the Colombian government and the FARC recommenced talks following a ten-year hiatus, but in the absence of a cease fire, the conflict on the ground continues, raising question about how the two sides can reach a successful conclusion. Several delicate issues also remain a stumbling-bloc. Should negotiations continue, it is unlikely a peace treaty would be reached this year, but in time prospects for an eventual settlement are reasonably good.

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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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FARC guerrillas initiate public relations war ahead of peace talks

Colombia’s FARC guerrillas yesterday released a video of combatants rapping about forthcoming bilateral peace talks with the government, the details of which President Juan Manuel Santos will confirm at 12.30 today in a special address to the nation.

The process will be long and arduous and the outcome is unknown, but this is the best chance for peace in the history of the near 50 year conflict.

If peace is the end game, this video, which attempts to present a humorous side to the brutal reality of this terrorist group, is the start of a fierce public relations war in which the battle is for the hearts and minds of the 46 million Colombians that make up this Andean nation.

A music video circulated yesterday in which FARC foot-soldiers appear in combat gear and t-shirts marked with the face of the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevarra singing along to a five minute parody of the peace talks scheduled to take place in October.

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Do we really trust Colombia’s politicians and guerrillas to deliver peace?

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Any peace talks between the government and rebel group FARC must involve civilians since neither government nor FARC can count on much credibility among the Colombian people.

The fact that virtually nobody has confidence in the goodwill of the FARC is common knowledge. The rebel group has caused too much pain and suffering to count on the support of many.

Having said that, Colombia’s political class can count on almost the same amount of popular support because of the chronic corruption, nepotism and its tendency to use the electorate for personal interest or economic gain.
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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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