Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced today that six members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and two policemen were killed in an attack near the Venezuelan border. The announcement comes only days after the president requested that the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN) set free two German citizens who were seized last week in the northern Catatumbo region. These events have raised concern about the viability of the peace talks in Havana, but both the government and the FARC remain optimistic about progress.
Iván Márquez, head of the FARC’s negotiating team, believes there are many reasons for his side to be optimistic about the peace process. “Destroying the road towards peace over claims of armed conflict would be unreasonable,” he stated. But since the group’s two-month ceasefire came to an end on January 20, kidnappings and violence have resumed in the country.
Smaller but more politically motivated than the FARC, the ELN has also expressed its interest in engaging in peace talks with the government, but the group refuses to stop its attacks on civilian and military targets as a precondition to begin the negotiations. The peace-building process held in Cuba recently concluded its third phase, with no major progress made toward ending the longstanding conflict. Land reform is currently the main focus of the negotiations.
Thursday marked the conclusion of the third round of peace talks between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba, with no major progress made toward ending this long-standing conflict as the Colombian government continued to rule out a ceasefire with the FARC to gain greater peace.
Humberto de la Calle, head of the Colombian government’s peace negotiation team, declared in a press conference that he would rule out a ceasefire with the FARC until definitive peace agreements were set. "We want peace, but not at any cost. Not if as a result of the conversations the guerrillas are able to get stronger and continue to wage war." January 20 marked the end of the two-month-long unilateral ceasefire on behalf of the FARC.
He also cited that the round of discussions should be instrumental in avoiding further guerilla operations. "Once the conflict ends and the FARC are reintegrated into society, they are eligible to have physical and legal guarantees, but this will not happen prior to a solid partnership. Politics and weapons should not be combined.”
The FARC, however, are pushing for land reform and social development investments. During this latest round of negotiations, the FARC emphasized the need for greater support for food production to meet basic nutritional needs and proposed that 25 million hectares (62 million acres) of land, more than 20 percent of the country, be handed over to the country's poor.
Progress is likely to be made confidentially during negotiations to facilitate honest and impactful discussion, according to De la Calle. He stated said that peace processes do not come to fruition if facilitated through the media, and that the negotiating team will maintain periodic announcements of progress.
With the fate of peace talks between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Colombian government hanging in the balance, the FARC requested yesterday that Colombian Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo participate in the negotiations in Havana, Cuba, to address the guerrilla group’s demand for agrarian reform.
The FARC’s proposal, presented on Monday, calls for a complete rural agrarian reform that includes property redistribution and the improvement of property conditions, among other elements. (See this document for more details.) Hours after the FARC’s request, Restrepo praised the group’s intentions but said that the proposal should be discussed by the members of the peace negotiation team, to which he does not belong. Besides land reform, the agenda for the peace talks includes the end of armed conflict, guarantees for the exercise of political opposition, drug trafficking and the rights of victims of the conflict.
On Monday, the FARC’s chief negotiator, Iván Márquez, said that the two-month ceasefire would come to an end on January 20. The rebel group’s intention to resume military operations—as well as the FARC’s allegedly increasing weapons acquisitions in Ecuador—may endanger the peace process that began in October.
The government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, stressed that Colombia is willing to extend guarantees to the rebels as long as the FARC agrees to end the fighting. Talks in this third phase of negotiation will go on for 11 days, followed by a three-day break. The deadline for the negotiations is set in November.
Yesterday afternoon, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) guerrilla group complained that the Colombian government’s usage of military force during peace talks threatened the harmony of the negotiations. Iván Márquez, chief negotiator for the FARC, stated that “in contrast with our act of humanity, President Santos announces that he will intensify the war on all national territory,” adding it was “nonsense.”
Although the FARC declared a two-month ceasefire last month, the move turned out to be unilateral as Santos made clear that the Colombian government would not reciprocate, and would continue a military offensive until a peace agreement is reached. The Colombian army has been largely successful in its effort, killing 20 FARC fighters earlier this month. In declaring its ceasefire, the FARC has petitioned for a bilateral ceasefire but to no avail. Márquez renewed the call yesterday: “[if the government] continues to be adamant in war, it should at least […] sign a treaty of regularization […] searching always to preserve the lives of the people and respect for their rights.”
The bilateral negotiations began ceremoniously in Oslo, Norway, this past October and intensified the following month in Havana, Cuba, where Cuban- and Norwegian-mediated talks—with Chilean and Venezuelan observation—have been taking place intermittently since the middle of November. The FARC was established in 1966, and its rebellion against the Colombian government marks Latin America’s longest running internal guerrilla conflict.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Mercosur convenes; first week of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency; FARC peace negotiations resume; Peru, Chile dispute their border at The Hague; and Rousseff’s oil royalties veto makes waves in Brazil.
Mercosur Considers Ecuador and Bolivia: When Mercosur’s member nations convene on Friday in Brasilia, they will consider upgrading Bolivia and Ecuador—currently associate members—to full membership. Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota cites a desire to deepen South American integration. AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini notes that “with each new addition to Mercosur the original intent of the customs union is becoming diluted. The additions may be economic benefits to Brazil and serve a broader political end, but with Venezuela and now potentially Bolivia and Ecuador the task of coordinating a common external tariff and ensuring that monetary policy doesn't interfere with internal trade is nearly impossible.”
Peña Nieto in the Presidency: After announcing his cabinet on Friday and transitioning into power the following day, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto undergoes his first full week in Mexico’s highest office. Yesterday, the main domestic political parties announced the Pacto por México (Pact for Mexico) that outlines desired political reforms for Peña Nieto’s term. The reforms center on three areas: strengthening the state; economic and political modernization; and expansion of social rights. As AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak observes, “the show of unity with the joint signing of the Pacto por México is an important accomplishment for Peña Nieto but the specifics of how to implement these reforms will be the real challenge especially with PRD legislators already threatening to block them.”
Peru, Chile at The Hague: Beginning today, the International Court of Justice will hear a lawsuit by Peru brought against Chile over an unclear maritime border. In the lead-up, however, both Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and his Peruvian counterpart Ollanta Humala have discouraged their respective citizens from being belligerently nationalistic. Piñera wrote against “exacerbated nationalism, which poisons the soul of the people,” while Humala urged for both countries to consider the outcome of the lawsuit as “the end point of a dispute between brother countries.”
Colombia, FARC Continue Talks: Both sides will resume peace negotiations in Havana on Wednesday. The Colombian government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, has stressed “a stable and enduring peace” as the desired outcome of the talks; President Juan Manuel Santos recently announced that he has designated November 2013 as the deadline for an agreement.
Impact of Dilma’s Partial Veto: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was absent at last Friday’s Unasur meeting in Lima due to “domestic engagements.” The issue in question was whether she would sign into law a controversial law on oil royalties, which would spread the nation’s resource wealth to non-producing states. According to Reuters, Dilma’s veto “changes the bill so that producer states continue to receive royalties on output from existing oil concessions. She signed most of the rest of the bill passed [in early November] by Congress, redistributing royalties from all future oil concessions so that non-producing states get a greater share.” The oil-producing states had threatened to take their case to the Supreme Court, which would have dragged out the case amid Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 and 2016 sporting mega-events. Pay attention this week to see further reactions within Brazil to Dilma’s partial veto.
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) was criticized on Monday for violating the two-month, unilateral ceasefire that the rebel group announced in Cuba last week. In an interview with El Tiempo, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón accused the FARC of targeting energy infrastructure and the local police in the department of Antioquia despite the ceasefire having been in effect since midnight on November 20. The FARC denied intentionally violating the ceasefire and responded by saying that their forces on the ground had not received the order in time, blaming the media for not disseminating the news properly.
The Colombian government has resisted pressure to respond to the ceasefire. “Those who have an obligation to demonstrate credibility and commitment [to the peace process] are the FARC, who have historically lied to Colombia,” said Minister Pinzón referring to the 1987 ceasefire that the rebel group violated and the demilitarized zone that the FARC used to rebuild its numbers and capability during the last attempted peace negotiation (1999-2002). Instead, President Juan Manuel Santos and his negotiating team are focusing on long-term peace and the integration of the rebels’ leadership into the political system. Minister Pinzón emphasized the government’s hope that the negotiations succeed and that the FARC “once and for all declare a ceasefire for the rest of time.”
Despite the controversy surrounding the ceasefire, the Colombian government and the FARC will continue to negotiate the end of the 50-year conflict behind closed doors. The talks are being mediated by Norway and Cuba, while Chile and Venezuela—seen as sympathetic to the Colombian government and the FARC, respectively—provide diplomatic support.
El anuncio unilateral de las FARC, justo en el día en que se iniciaba la segunda fase de las conversaciones de paz con el gobierno en La Habana, tomó por sorpresa al país: habrá una tregua navideña entre el 20 de noviembre y el 20 de enero, tiempo durante el que el grupo guerrillero promete no realizar ninguna clase de “operaciones militares ofensivas contra las fuerzas públicas” o “actos de sabotaje contra la infraestructura pública o privada”. Este anuncio significa en la práctica que las FARC pararán la escalada de ataques que venían realizando en Chocó, Valle y Cauca—paro armado, cilindros bomba y explosión en fiesta de Halloween incluidos, con un saldo de 47 muertos y 83 heridos—poblaciones donde es un eufemismo seguir llamando daños colaterales a las múltiples víctimas civiles que dejan los enfrentamientos entre ilegales y fuerzas armadas en contextos donde nadie respeta el Derecho Internacional Humanitario. También significa que disminuirán el asedio a poblaciones como Arauca y Norte de Santander donde los trabajadores de los oleoductos tienen cada vez menos libertades de movimiento por temor a ser secuestrados.
Probará además si la cadena de mando que hoy tiene a los máximos representantes de las FARC en la Habana—Iván Márquez a la cabeza—es capaz de controlar a sus cerca de 8 mil hombres distribuidos en cinco bloques y dos comandos conjuntos en todo el país, y si cuentan con suficientes métodos de verificación para probar el éxito de la tregua que como anuncio le sienta muy bien el país, y deja a las FARC con una ventaja política importante en las negociaciones. Aunque sorpresivo, el comunicado de Iván Márquez también recuerda que entre los negociadores guerrilleros hay una fuerte presencia de “estrategas” políticos, al punto de que varios de ellos hacían trabajo militante de base, no tenían un bloque al mando, o incluso no estaban en el país combatiendo como es el caso de Marcos León Calarcá que encabeza la Comisión Internacional de las FARC desde la década de los 80.
Shortly before resuming peace negotiations with the Colombian government in Havana on Monday, Ivan Marquez—the lead negotiator for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC)—declared a ceasefire, halting all offensive military operations and acts of sabotage against infrastructure.
The ceasefire began at midnight and is expected to last until January 20, 2013, and will “strengthen the climate of understanding necessary so that the parties that are starting the dialogue achieve the purpose desired by all Colombians," says Marquez. The Colombian government has publicly pledged to continue battling the FARC until a peace agreement has been signed and has not commented on Monday’s announcement.
The peace talks, which were postponed for four days due to “technical details,” resumed on Monday, a month after they officially commenced in Oslo. The negotiations will focus primarily on land reform, an issue that the FARC claims has been at the center of the 50-year conflict. The two parties are also set to discuss the formal end to the armed conflict, the political future of the FARC, guarantees for the exercise of political opposition and citizen participation, drug trafficking, and the rights of the victims of the war. Norway and Cuba are mediating the peace talks while Chile and Venezuela act as “acompañantes” to help with logistics and provide diplomatic support.
The end game of the talks is for the FARC to lay down their arms and to negotiate the integration of its troops into Colombia’s mainstream society and political system. The ceasefire is seen as a positive sign that the rebel group is serious about gaining political legitimacy and ending the conflict. Though the Colombian government remains wary of the group’s commitment to peace, analysts believe that this latest move puts pressure on President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration to reciprocate.
Lejos de la selva, y de la imagen de la silla vacía que el expresidente Andrés Pastrana miraba de reojo aquel día en que el fallecido comandante de las FARC Manuel Marulanda—alias Tirofijo—no se apareció a instalar los diálogos de paz, gobierno y Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) vuelven a sentarse en una mesa.
Esta vez a las afueras de Oslo, Noruega, en un ambiente con aire diplomático, encorbatados, llegando a un epílogo de una serie de conversaciones y encuentros que se hicieron con la discresión de la que se careció años atrás. Con un acuerdo ya firmado sobre los temas a tratar en la negociación, con el rol definido y clave de los garantes (Cuba y Noruega) y de los acompañantes (Venezuela y Chile), y con voceros únicos.
Y a pesar de toda la filigrana, válida y necesaria, lo que pasó este jueves en Oslo demostró lo que la sociedad tiene que entender a la hora de opinar sobre el proceso. En la mesa están sentadas dos visiones de país, dos enemigos, que literalmente se han dado bala por siglos, uno de los cuales se alzó en armas frente al otro con una idea de rebelión marxista que culminó en 50 años de lucha, alimentada por el terror, el secuestro y el narcotráfico, mientras el otro le respondía desde la legalidad con su aparato armado, y también con sumas de ejércitos ilegales que exterminaron a la Unión Patriótica cuando las FARC quisieron hacer política.
Y es por esa diferencia y esa enemistad, que lo importante para una parte puede no serlo para la otra, y que el éxito en la negociación está en manejar las declaraciones y las respuestas con cautela sobre todo ante los medios de comunicación.
La negociación tendrá tres fases: la exploratoria que ya surtió efectos con la firma de un primer acuerdo; la segunda que comenzó ayer para avanzar en los temas contenidos en ese primer acuerdo; y la tercera de implementación de lo negociado.
After a half-century of armed conflict, representatives of the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) convened in Norway to inaugurate a new round of peace talks today.
The groups have been engaged in conflict since the 1960s, and for the first time the two sides will be present in a public meeting. Past attempts to secure peace have successfully demobilized about 37,000 paramilitary and guerrilla members, but have failed to negotiate a peace agreement with the FARC or with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN).
Despite last minute changes to the FARC negotiating team—such as the addition of Dutch combatant Tanja Nijmeijer as a spokesperson—Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has expressed “moderate optimism” about the process.
On the Colombian side, the chief government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, and peace commissioner Sergio Jaramillo have confirmed the Colombian government’s decision of not implementing a ceasefire until a final peace agreement is achieved. “If I see that there's no progress, that they are simply trying to buy time, I will stand up and continue business as usual,” Santos has said.
On the FARC side, Luciano Marín Arango—the number two of the armed group known as "Iván Márquez"—will be their most important negotiator at the table. He will be joined by peace negotiators Rodrigo Granda, alias "Ricardo Téllez"; Jesús Emilio Carvajalino, alias "Andrés París"; Luis Alberto Albán, alias "Marcos León Calarcá"; and Juvenal Ricardo Ovidio Palmera, alias "Simón Trinidad", who is serving a 60-year sentence in the United States for conspiracy and kidnapping.
Chile and Venezuela will act as “acompañantes” to help with logistics and provide diplomatic support. If successful, future rounds of the negotiation will continue in Havana, Cuba. The Colombian government hopes the ELN will also join the process.
Extra: Read AQ’s exclusive interview with Sergio Fajardo Valderrama, governor of Colombia’s Antioquia state, on his views and expectations of the peace process.