Ending a civil war: Colombia cracks the code?


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

President’s re-election boosts peace-talk hopes in Colombia


Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, won a second term on Sunday with an election victory that allows him to continue peace talks with Marxist guerrillas to end a half-century war.

Santos beat rightwing challenger Óscar Iván Zuluaga with about 50.8% of the vote after a bitter campaign that challenged voters to decide between the incumbent’s pursuit of negotiated peace or a likely escalation of combat under Zuluaga.

Zuluaga trailed with about 45.1% of support. Votes had been counted from more than 98% of polling stations, meaning Santos’s victory was secure.

His re-election comes as a relief to his backers as well as traditional rivals from the left who backed the peace talks and feared they could have been jettisoned by Zuluaga in favour of trying to end the long conflict on the battlefield.

Santos, who hails from one of the country’s most influential families, opened talks with rebel leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) in late 2012 to end a conflict that has killed over 200,000 people and forced millions more from their homes. He made peace hopes a key selling point throughout the campaign.

Although they have shown more progress than previous failed efforts, the peace talks in Cuba have been divisive. Zuluaga supporters fear a peace deal could hand the Farc leaders political power without punishment for their crimes.

Santos sought to capitalise on support for his peace effort this week by revealing preliminary talks had begun with the second biggest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

A victory for Zuluaga, 55, could have spelled the end of the peace process if the Farc rejected the tougher conditions he vowed to impose to keep talks going.

Colombia’s financial market were not rattled by the campaign because both candidates are considered business friendly. Colombia’s economy is one of the fastest growing in Latin America.

68a. Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas #Colombia #UNGA

El Presidente de #Colombia Juan Manuel Santos habla en la 68a. Sesión de la Asamblea en Nueva York hoy 24 en la mañana
(Septiembre 24 – Octubre 1o.) en vivo y en directo

Llegó la hora de la verdad para el diálogo, que se retoma el lunes


Santos les dijo a las Farc que no son ellas las que ponen condiciones al proceso.

El Gobierno confirmó el pasado sábado que este lunes se reanudarán los diálogos de paz con las Farc, con el fin de continuar la discusión del segundo punto de la agenda, relacionado con la participación política.

Tras una reunión de casi una hora con los líderes de su equipo negociador –en la Casa de Nariño–, el presidente Santos ordenó que se reanuden mañana mismo las conversaciones.

Así lo informó Humberto de la Calle, jefe de los negociadores, quien enfatizó que se “constató” que la guerrilla tiene la disposición de retomar las conversaciones.

“Tras una evaluación se constató rigurosamente que las Farc han tomado la decisión de regresar el lunes, a las 8:30 de la mañana, a la mesa de conversaciones, para continuar normalmente con las deliberaciones”, precisó el exministro.

Sigue leyendo

Colombia cattle ranchers fear ‘communist’ redistribution of lands after FARC deal


Colombia’s federation of cattle ranchers, representing the country’s large land owners, on Friday rejected a recently made agrarian deal with the FARC that according to the agricultural businessmen includes Venezuela-like expropriations of private property.

Jose Felix Lafaurie, president of FEDEGAN, said the joint report from the negotiating table in Havana “generates more questions than answers,” and opens the door to legally acquired land being expropriated.

His letter to chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle Lombana also warns that FARC and other illegal armed groups are concentrating land ownership, saying that ranchers will not accept losses of land while illegal groups benefit.

Lafaurie is a loyal ally of former president Uribe and strong critic of Santos. Mired in corruption scandals several times, he has managed to continue his political career while also running significant business interests of his own.

While Lafaurie accepted that illegally taken land should be returned, his letter expressed concern that the ability to expropriate legally owned, but unused lands to give it to small farmers would “open a Pandora’s Box” in which legal land owners would become targets of a process in which the government agencies would have too much discretionary power.

However, FEDEGAN cattle ranchers have been accused of being some of the chief propagators of paramilitary violence in Colombia, and Lafaurie himself has admitted to FEDEGAN paying AUC paramilitaries, the main perpetrators of massive land theft.
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‘Si Farc no entregan armas, ¿para qué estamos conversando?’: Santos


El Presidente dijo que esa guerrilla debe dejar de pedir imposibles que no se les concederán.

En una de sus más duras respuestas a las Farc por las múltiples propuestas que han lanzado desde que iniciaron los diálogos de La Habana, el presidente Juan Manuel Santos aseguró este viernes en la noche que esa guerrilla debe dejar de “pedir lo imposible” y advirtió que si no dejan las armas pues las conversaciones no tienen sentido.

Desde Cartagena, donde lideró una ceremonia de graduación de la Armada, el Jefe de Estado subrayó que las Farc “dicen que de pronto no entregan las armas, eso es absurdo. Entonces, ¿para qué estamos conversando?”. Esto en clara respuesta a una entrevista que dio ‘Andrés París’, en la que dijo que la “foto” del desarme de la guerrilla “no la va a tener” el Gobierno.

Ante las múltiples propuestas que han lanzado las Farc, alejadas del espíritu inicial de la agenda de negociación y con la clara intención de impulsar reformas estructurales del Estado, el mandatario advirtió que “deben dejar de pedir lo imposible porque no se les va a conceder”.

“(Dijimos que) no íbamos a discutir ninguna política pública, ninguna reforma fundamental del Estado. Lo que íbamos a discutir son unas reglas de juego para que las Farc, y ojalá el Eln, cambien las balas por los votos. Para que cambien las armas por los argumentos”, precisó Santos.

Sigue leyendo

Almost all of Colombia to be online by 2014: Santos


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that by 2014 almost all of the country will be connected by fiber optics “for training and the expansion of knowledge.”

Santos spoke at the opening ceremony of the XIV International Virtual Educa, a conference, exhibition and multilateral forum on education, innovation and ICT, taking place in Colombia’s second city Medellin, 2013′s most innovative city in the world.

The president said that by the end of his presidential term next year 1,078 of the 1,121 municipalities in the country will be connected, allowing communications and internet to reach some of the most rural communities.

“When we began our term in government, only 200 municipalities were connected with fiber-optics,” said Santos. The government also expects to have trained over 200,000 teachers in the use of ICT in the classroom by the end of 2013, that is up from 40,000 in 2010.

“At first there was an average of 20 students per computer [in schools], we should end this year with an average of 13 children per computer and in 2014, if we continue as we are, we should have an average of eight children per computer,” said Santos.

“Universal access to technology is the best guarantee that new generations close social gaps which have so far created educational differences,” said the president.

The event brings together representatives from 20 countries and highlights innovation, education, competitiveness and development.

Source: Colombia Reports

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