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Column 102714 Brewer

Monday, October 27, 2014

FARC cannot be trusted in Colombia's changeless Peace Talks

By Jerry Brewer

Attempts to end 50 years of conflict in Colombia, since the latest peace talks began in November of 2012 in Cuba, show remnants of a charade by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

In what could be described as a skillfully exploited situation by the FARC, the Colombian government continues to negotiate with the rebels to end a conflict that is believed to have killed more than 200,000 persons and internally displaced some three million people. The battle has been called “Latin America’s longest-running war.”

High-ranking guerrilla commanders joined the Colombian peace talks taking place in Cuba last week. However Ivan Marquez, the lead negotiator of FARC, said that people shouldn't hold high expectations for the peace talks.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, US-based social scientists held a negative view of truces involving violent groups and gangs, believing that those kinds of agreements legitimized gangs, reinforced the authority of their leaders, deepened cohesion among their rank and file, and actually reproduced – rather than reduce – violence. Their perceptions had much merit.

FARC leaders are continuing to insist on no jail time for their atrocities, and the right to run for political office if they are to demobilize and peacefully reintegrate. Moreover, they have consistently refused to disarm.

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 Colombian government consistently cited the lack of commitment by the FARC as to the process of talks, while the latter continued its criminal acts.

It eventually became clear that the FARC had much higher political support. At his annual State of the Nation address in the National Assembly, on January 11, 2008, then President of Venezuela 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 had a political goal.

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

A report in 2013 indicated that Jose Luis Merino, a leader of El Salvador's Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a leftwing political party, arranged a drug lord’s meeting with the Colombian FARC on a flight coordinated with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.  This alleged new evidence thusly reveals that Maduro, Venezuela’s current president, when serving as his nation's Foreign Minister, “worked to improve the FMLN’s access to drug trafficking."

Back in 2010 the FARC had killed at least 460 members of Colombia’s security forces, while wounding more than 2,000.

By early 2011 Colombian authorities and news media reported that the FARC and their clandestine sister groups had partly shifted strategy from guerrilla warfare to "a war of militias," meaning that they were increasingly operating in civilian clothes while hiding amongst sympathizers in the civilian population.

In 2011 the Colombian Congress issued a statement claiming that the FARC had a "strong presence" in roughly one third of the country, while its attacks against security forces "have continued to rise" throughout 2010 and 2011.

On July 20, 2013 as peace talks were allegedly making progress, two rebel attacks on government positions killed 19 soldiers and an unspecified number of combatants. It was the deadliest day since peace talks began in November 2012.

On November 13, 2013 the Colombian Government uncovered a FARC plot to assassinate former President Alvaro Uribe. FARC gunmen had murdered Uribe’s father, Alberto, at the family ranch in 1983 during a botched kidnapping attempt.

Previously there were statements claiming agreements had been reached, that included cooperation on eradicating the illicit drug trade, agricultural reform, and FARC's legal participation in politics once a comprehensive agreement was finalized.

The truth is that FARC insurgents have continually taken hostages and murdered many civilians, including women and children.  Their justifying rationale for the attacks and assassinations, against the armed forces, police and others, is cited in their self-seeking ideological claims of starting out as a grassroots-supported guerrilla movement in the interests of the repressed rural population. 

And the FARC's spurious history of taking advantage of previous concessions, during talks with the Colombian government, to disarm and seek peace is well documented – this while professing peace but never laying down their arms.

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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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