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

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Desde el lunes 19 de mayo comienza la votación anticipada para elegir Presidente y Vicepresidente

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Para facilitar el desplazamiento de los ciudadanos colombianos residentes en el sur de la Florida al puesto de votación, las urnas electorales van a estar abiertas durante siete días: entre el 19 y el 24 de mayo de 2014.
Los votantes deben tener en cuenta que si van a votar entre el lunes 19 y el sábado 24 de mayo, deben acudir directamente al Consulado General Central de Colombia en Miami, (280 Aragon Ave. Coral Gables, FL 33134), entre las 8 a.m. y las 4 p.m. En la sede consular estarán habilitadas mesas correspondientes a los 7 puestos de votación autorizados en el Sur de la Florida.
Si van a votar el domingo 25 de mayo, los ciudadanos deben acudir directamente al puesto de votación donde están inscritos, entre las 8 a.m. y las 4 p.m.
La cédula de ciudadanía vigente (versión amarilla con holograma) es el único documento válido para votar.

Para verificar el puesto de votación los ciudadanos colombianos pueden ingresar a: http://www.registraduria.gov.co/-Censo-Electoral-.html

Puestos de votación autorizados:
CONSULADO: 280 Aragon Ave. Coral Gables Florida 33134
KENDALL: MIAMI DADE COLLEGE Gymnasium Gibson Center 11011 SW 104 St. Miami, Florida 33176
HIALEAH: MILANDER CENTER FOR ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT 4800 Palm Ave. Hialeah Florida, 33012
WESTON: RICK CASE HONDA, 15700 Rick case Way, Davie Florida 33331.
PLANTATION: DIECKE AUDITORIUM, 5701 Cypress Road, Plantation Florida 33317
WEST PALM BEACH: EL BODEGON #4, 4481 Lakeworth Road. Lakeworth FL 33461.
SARASOTA: HILTON GARDEN INN, 8270 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota Florida 34243.

Fuente: Consulado de Colombia – Miami, Florida

Colombian Farc rebels present drug regulation plan

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The rebels say the eradication of illicit crops is not the way forward

The Farc presented the plan as part of its peace talks with the government.

The guerrilla group, which largely finances itself through drug trafficking, suggested a programme to “regulate the production of coca, poppies and marijuana”.

The rebels said that growers should be enticed “to voluntarily grow alternative crops”.

Instead of fighting the production it’s about regulating it and finding alternatives”

Along with Peru and Bolivia, Colombia is one of the world’s top three producers of coca, the raw material for making cocaine.

It also grows large amounts of marijuana and produces smaller quantities of heroin.

The government has spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate illicit crops – pulling them out by hand, spraying them with herbicides, and encouraging growers to switch to legal alternatives.

According to United Nations figures, Colombia has seen a 25% fall in the area of land planted with coca between 2011 and 2012.

But Farc negotiator Pablo Catatumbo said prohibition and eradication were not the way forward.

‘Legal alternatives’
“Instead of fighting the production [of illicit substances] it’s about regulating it and finding alternatives,” he said.

“The fundamental basis of this plan lies in its voluntary and collaborative nature, and in the political will on the part of the growers to take alternative paths to achieve humane living and working conditions.”

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Mr Catatumbo also said that the “medicinal, therapeutical and cultural” uses of the substances should be taken into account.

In Bolivia, the production of coca in small amounts is legal although the production of cocaine remains banned.

Coca leaves have been used for many centuries as a mild stimulant and to counteract the effects of high altitude in the Andes.

Last month another South American nation, Uruguay, voted to legalise the marijuana trade, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

The Farc has been engaged in peace talks with the Colombian government for more than a year.

The two sides have reached tentative agreements on two issues so far – land reform and the eventual political participation of the rebels should a peace treaty be signed.

They are currently holding their 19th round of talks in the Cuban capital, Havana.
Source:BBC News LatinAmerica

‘Creemos que la oportunidad de terminar el conflicto es aquí y ahora’

De la Calle

Humberto de la Calle, jefe del equipo negociador del Gobierno en los diálogos con las Farc. Foto Presidencia

Tras un año de diálogos, Humberto de la Calle les dijo a Farc: “no hay espacio para el magnicidio”.

Al cumplirse un año exacto del inicio de los diálogos de paz entre el Gobierno y las Farc, este martes el Ejecutivo hizo un balance positivo de las conversaciones y, de paso, le advirtió a la guerrilla que en medio del diálogo no se admitirán atentados personales.

La advertencia la lanzó Humberto de la Calle, jefe del equipo negociador del Gobierno, quien aseguró que “no hay espacio para el magnicidio ni para el atentado personal; eso tiene que quedar claro”.

“Creemos que la oportunidad de terminar el conflicto es aquí y ahora. Los colombianos lo entienden bien. Esperamos que las Farc compartan este anhelo, que estén dispuestas a renunciar definitivamente al uso de la violencia”, añadió.

De la Calle precisó además que estamos “en un proceso serio y bien encaminado, construido sobre bases sólidas y realistas”, y reiteró que la negociación es por la paz y no para entregarle el Estado a la insurgencia.

“No les estamos entregando el país a la guerrilla. Estamos buscando acuerdos que respeten la Constitución, para terminar la guerra e iniciar la construcción de la paz”, precisó el jefe del equipo negociador del Gobierno.

En este balance, el Ejecutivo aseguró que durante este año se han sostenido 16 ciclos de conversaciones, que en suman alrededor de 176 días de diálogos directos con la guerrilla.

De la Calle también aclaró que el Gobierno es “celoso” de que se respeten “los puntos pactados” para negociar, por lo que insistió en que no se modificará la agenda del diálogo.

Aunque hay expectativa por conocer el reemplazo de Luis Carlos Villegas en la mesa de diálogo, ya que asumió como Embajador de Colombia en Estados Unidos, De la Calle no reveló ese nombre. No obstante, se cree que sería Nigeria Rentería, alta consejera para los temas de mujer.

Fuente: REDACCIÓN POLÍTICA – El Tiempo

“Nunca antes se había llegado tan lejos en el camino para terminar el conflicto”

 ☞ Alocución del Señor Presidente de la República de Colombia Juan Manuel Santos – 6 de noviembre

Este miércoles en La Habana se lograron cinco acuerdos concretos sobre el punto 2 de la negociación: poner en marcha un sistema integral de seguridad para el ejercicio de la política, desarrollar un mecanismo por medio del cual se expida un Estatuto para la Oposición, impulsar normas que garanticen la participación, crear una Misión Electoral de expertos, y crear Circunscripciones Transitorias Especiales de Paz en la Cámara de Representantes para los territorios que más han sufrido la violencia.

Yo entiendo la impaciencia y el escepticismo de algunos –soy el primer impaciente– pero tenemos que entender que la paz no se hace con los enemigos.

Colombian president tells U.N. the drug war has not been won

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Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, President of the Republic of Colombia, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 24, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

By Daniel Trotta
UNITED NATIONS | Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:25pm EDT
(Reuters) – The “war on drugs” has not been won, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told the United Nations on Tuesday, exhorting the world body to add teeth to a special session on drugs in 2016.

“Right here, in this same headquarters, 52 years ago, the convention that gave birth to the war on drugs was approved. Today, we must acknowledge, that war has not been won,” Santos told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, referring to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.

“And I say this as the president of the country that has suffered more deaths, more bloodshed and more sacrifices in this war, and the country that has also achieved more results in the fight against this scourge and the mafias that underpin it.”

Colombia is the world’s largest exporter of illegal cocaine, despite an intense crackdown on guerrilla armies that have intertwined themselves with drug cartels.

Armed conflict in Colombia has killed more than 220,000 people in the past 50 years, Santos said.

He challenged Colombian guerrillas who have joined forces with drug traffickers to respond to his government’s overtures to end the armed conflict through dialogue and said failure would condemn his South American country to many more years of bloodshed and pain.

Santos made similar statements about the failure of international cooperation to fight drug trafficking last year at the Summit of the Americas, when the Organization of American States was commissioned to study new approaches to combating illegal narcotics.

The studies were delivered in May, Santos said, proposing that the United Nations give them serious consideration in time for a so-called Special Session on Drugs in 2016, proposed by Mexico and accepted by the world body.

Last month, Santos said he was ready to start peace talks with the smaller of Colombia’s two leftist rebel groups, the National Liberation Army (ELN), to try to end half a century of war.

His government last year opened peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and though the talks have been turbulent at times and progressed slowly, neither side has walked out.

Without naming the rebel groups, Santos also called on the FARC and the ELN to seize what he termed a historic moment.

“The guerrillas will have to decide whether they opt for an honorable and long-lasting peace, or whether they will insist on the war,” Santos said.

“The time for decisions has come. If we come out empty-handed, we will condemn our nation to many more years of bloodshed and pain” he said. We can’t miss this opportunity. Future generations and history would not forgive us.”

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Christopher Wilson)

Panama Joins Colombia, Costa Rica And Jamaica In The Regional Fight With Nicaragua Over Regional Waters

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By: Patricia Rey Mallen

Nicaragua cannot catch a break. After bringing a conflict with Colombia to the United Nations and having a tiff with Costa Rica over a border town, Panama announced on Thursday it had a bone to pick with its northern neighbor: President Ricardo Martinelli said Panama would be joining Colombia in its dispute with Nicaragua over territorial waters.

Martinelli accused his Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega, of attempting to appropriate an area of the Caribbean Sea that rightly belongs to Panama. On a government website, he said Ortega had “expansionist delusions” and that he was appropriating maritime sections that belonged to his country and others, such as Colombia, Costa Rica and Jamaica.

“We are going to fight this as a block and individually,” Martinelli said. He explained that the four countries have alerted U.S. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about Managua’s “hostile attitude.”

Ortega denied the accusation and said that Nicaragua has never taken anything that did not strictly belong to the country. “The [international] law should be the way to solve it,” he said on a government website. “Else we’re going back to being cavemen.”

US Maritime Industry Banking On The Panama Canal Expansion?
Panama Warns Canal Users: Don’t Pull A North Korea
The recent conflict with Panama is a direct result of a dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia over regional seas delimitation, which got settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, late last year.

The resolution was favorable to Managua, but Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos responded that the decision was against the Colombian Constitution and it should be re-evaluated. In return, Ortega replied that any negotiation with Colombia would focus on how to best implement the verdict of The Hague. Costa Rica, Jamaica and Panama then rose to the defense of Colombia.

Source: International Business Times

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