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Column 112513 Brewer

Monday, November 25, 2013

Colombian Officials and FARC Insurgents Talk Peace, in Cuba

By Jerry Brewer

Progress, in Cuba, has been announced in the peace negotiations between Colombia and its largest left-wing guerrilla insurgency of five decades, known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

This revolutionary group has essentially held Colombia hostage, resulting in an estimated figure of 220,000 people killed in the atrocities, with hundreds of thousands more displaced due to the violence. 

The negotiations in Havana, Cuba, since November of 2012, were characterized by FARC leader Ivan Marquez as "an important step in the right direction to end the conflict and to achieve a real democracy in Colombia."

The FARC first came from communist origins, with a very small number of guerrilla founders who concentrated on expanding their base of support and then, over time, grew in strength to literally displace the governments in many parts of the country. 

Originally largely liberal in ideology, the peasant originators of the FARC followed the political lead of the Colombian Communist Party. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the FARC was one of a number of new, small guerrilla groups, including the National Liberation Army (ELN), founded in 1964, the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), founded in 1967, and the M-19, founded in 1970.

This armed revolutionary organization grew to become one of the world’s highest profile terrorist groups, this while their ideology often waffled into transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.

So, are FARC partisans today much more than terrorists and/or drug traffickers?

Some rationalize that although the FARC insurgents take hostages and have murdered many civilians, including women and children, their attacks and assassinations against military and police have been justified. They cite the political ideology of starting out as a grassroots-supported guerrilla movement that had the interest of the repressed rural population.

But the facts demonstrate that FARC fighters have inflicted willful death and destruction within the Colombian homeland, plus they kidnap and commit other human rights violations against Colombians and others.

The FARC, much like many of the drug trafficking networks that operate throughout Central America and Mexico, boldly rationalize that the majority of all the deaths and human rights violations are carried out by government, military organizations, and police forces. The FARC claims that, considering these government interventions, they cannot be labeled a terrorist group.

There is no doubt that the FARC has taken advantage of previous concessions by the Colombian government to talk, disarm, and seek peace. Colombian President Andres Pastrana, in 1998, withdrew around 2,000 police and soldiers from over 16 square miles in southern and eastern Colombia, turning over control of that territory to the FARC “as a gesture of goodwill.” The FARC however did not comply with the peace accord efforts, and took advantage of the government by using the territory as a training ground for recruits and future actions.

In the 1990s the FARC, via the leftist Patriotic Union Party, continued to wage war during peace talks with the Colombian government. The Patriotic Union (UP) was founded by the FARC and the Colombian Communist Party in 1985, as part of the peace negotiations that the guerrillas held with the Belisario Betancur administration.  The Colombian government consistently cited the lack of commitment by the FARC as to the process of talks, while continuing its criminal acts. The UP’s ideology was Marxist and communist, but coyly focused on proposing and implementing solutions to the problems of poor communities.

At his annual State of the Nation address, in the Venezuelan National Assembly on January 11, 2008, former President Hugo Chavez referred to the FARC as "a real army that occupies territory in Colombia.” Too, he stated that the FARC were not terrorists because they have a political goal.

Colombian military forces, in March of 2008, seized “thousands of rebel documents” and found links to Chavez of Venezuela. Details from computers, hard drives, memory sticks and emails that were seized, which held documents and correspondence belonging to a high-level rebel leader -- Luis Edgar Devia Silva (AKA Raul Reyes), who was killed during the raid.

As to the current negotiations in Havana, there are currently six points listed on the so-called “peace agenda.” They are land reform, political participation, disarmament, illicit drugs, victims’ rights, and peace deal implementation.

The FARC’s “political” participation is considered to be one of the most controversial issues on the agenda, “so this latest announcement (of progress) will give the process a much-needed boost,” said the BBC's Arturo Wallace in Bogota. Yet many see the most important issue as to whether some FARC officials can be barred from participating in politics because of crimes against humanity, and related human rights abuses.

On November 13, 2013 the Colombian Government uncovered a FARC plot to assassinate former President Alvaro Uribe. An intelligence report indicated that the “FARC's Teofilio Forero Mobile Column was planning to do this killing.” FARC gunmen murdered Uribe’s father, Alberto, at the family ranch in 1983, during a botched kidnapping attempt.

And the Colombian people want an end to all of this.

However, negotiating with terrorists has much too often failed in the past, plus said negotiations have ultimately proven to be some of the biggest blunders made by governments.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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