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.
Natural resource extraction is a key contributor to economic growth in various parts of the Western Hemisphere, but governments, businesses and civil society are faced with how to improve extractive activity and its effects on broad-based socioeconomic development in respective communities. A special section in the Winter 2013 issue of Americas Quarterly, released today, includes photo essays and analysis to look at these challenges and compare the potentials and pitfalls for the natural resource industry in Chile, Colombia and Peru in four critical areas: community relations and consulta previa (prior consultation); value-added economic development; the nature of governance and public management; and the environment.
In the case of consulta previa, although Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization—on the right of Indigenous and tribal peoples to prior consultation—has been ratified by 20 countries, most of which are Latin American nations, the accord is still subject to competing interpretations by community leaders and governments.To maximize success and mitigate conflict, the AQ special section urges all stakeholders to view consulta previa as a regular process throughout the life of the exploration or exploitation project, and for businesses to broaden the scope of consultative mechanisms beyond extraction’s original impact zone.
The special section also suggests that governments and businesses work together to ensure a positive impact of extractive industry over national economies. By leveraging tax and royalty resources, governments can attract investment and promote local innovation. It cites Chile as a model in terms of its Fondo de Innovación para la Competitividad (Innovation Fund for Competitiveness). However, clear priorities for social policy and investment must be in place to ensure an equitable resource distribution.
In addition, despite some progress in economic and community development over the life of extractive industry in the three countries, governments and businesses still lag behind in protecting the environment from the negative effects of mining exploration. The AQ section asks governments to boost the capacity and strengthen the authority of federal environment ministries and for businesses to monitor energy consumption levels and seek creative ways to reduce them.
In addition to the photo essays and analysis, an exclusive AQ documentary looks at a proposed project by the coal mining company Cerrejón to move an entire river 16 miles (26 kilometers) and the effects that would have on the Wayúu Indigenous community that lives alongside it .
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.
Violence in the western department of Chocó has led to the forced displacement of approximately 680 Afro-Colombians since January 5. In response, Colombian Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otálora has called for a full-fledged state response to illegal groups.
The situation erupted as a result of heightened fighting between criminal bands and paramilitary groups over a territorial dispute in southern Chocó. The Ratrojos and Urabeños are fighting over control drug trafficking routes at the mouth of the San Juan River.
Members of the semi-nomadic Wounaan tribe are the main victims of the unstable situation, and continue to search for safe haven and food.
In a separate communication, the Unidad para la Atención y Reparación Integral a las Víctimas (Victims’ Attention and Comprehensive Reparation Unit) said that an estimated 7,200 refugees from Chocó have fled to the nearby department of Docordó.
Colombia is home to more than 3.7 million displaced people—among the top such figures in the world—as a result of the criminal gangs, leftist guerrillas, narcotrafficking and other armed actors affecting the country for half a century. Under Colombia’s August 2010 Victims and Land Restitution Bill, victims of forced displacement are eligible for reparations and land restitution.
Two decades ago, when political scientist Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history and declared that democracy had triumphed over fascism and communism, Marxist guerrilla groups listened. Many of them shed political ideology and turned to illicit mining, drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom. Since then, facing military and political pressures, these groups have largely demobilized. And now the last Marxist-led rebellion in South America might come to an end as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) negotiates for peace with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba.
The negotiators face an uphill battle. Not only have numerous past negotiations between the FARC and Colombian government failed to deliver durable compromise, but, historically, successful bargains in civil wars across the world in the last century have proven to be rare and improbable. According to the civil war scholar Barbara F. Walter, only 17 of 41 civil wars between 1940 and 1990 contained formal negotiations for peace. Negotiations produced settlement agreements only eight times.
One reason for this is that civil wars differ from other wars. Negotiated settlement in civil war, unlike that in inter-state war, typically includes the complete dismantlement of the armed forces of the losing side. Whereas parties to international wars retain, post-conflict, the security that their respective militaries and territorial sovereignty allow, one side in a civil war loses all ability to defend itself. After dismantling their army and surrendering their conquered territory, combatants face increased vulnerability and diminished ability to verify the other side’s compliance with the settlement. A rational actor will not commit to agreements if it cannot be assured of the other side’s compliance as it transitions from strength to weakness.
The FARC has experienced this before. When several FARC factions disarmed in the 1980s to form a political party, their visibility and vulnerability made them perfect targets. Drug lords, paramilitary groups and government troops slowly exterminated the group.
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.
Representatives from various governments, multilateral organizations, businesses, and academic institutions gather in Cali, Colombia, today for the first of a three-day conference known as the Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF). The ACF seeks to promote economic growth and innovation in the hemisphere. The sixth ACF is being organized by the Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism and is being hosted by President Juan Manuel Santos.
Guests include Organization of American States Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza, UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.
The choice of Cali for the ACF underlines the successful transformation of this traditionally crime-stricken metropolis; crime rates have dramatically dropped to their lowest in 30 years. U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, who will accompany Burns' delegation, said: "the fact that all of us are coming together feeling secure and comfortable and excited about going to Cali [...] is a tribute to the Colombian people and the Colombian government.”
Competitiveness is also an important pillar for rakings in The World Bank/ International Finance Corporation annual Doing Business report. Released this week, the report shows that Colombia has improved its regulatory environment the most in the past five years. Other Latin American countries like Costa Rica—which saw the greatest improvement in its overall ranking among countries in the region in 2011—as well as Chile, Peru and Mexico are also making steady progress toward more flexible and friendlier business environments.
Just three weeks after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his prostate gland, Vice President Angelino Garzón announced yesterday that he may step down from office in order to undergo radiation therapy for a similar condition. He will receive 39 sessions over eight weeks.
This is the first time that the vice president has insinuated that he would leave his post; his term has been plagued with a myriad of health issues including a heart attack shortly after taking office and a stroke which left him comatose in June. While Garzón said that the cancer is not life threatening, he is “fully aware that [he] must leave up to the constitution and the law everything related to the present and future of the vice presidency of Colombia." It is not clear whether Garzón will renounce his post or whether he will let Congress—which earlier this month demanded he submit to a medical examination to determine his potential fitness to replace President Santos—make the final decision.
According to Colombia’s 1991 Constitution, the vice president is elected by popular vote on the same ticket as the president. If Garzón were to step down, his replacement would be elected by Congress to fulfill the remainder of the term. Despite the restoration in the Constitution, however, some legislators are still discussing eliminating the position if he is not able to fulfill his duties due to his health.
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.