Negotiations have been taking place in Cuba for the last year, with little progress until now. That lack of success has cost President Juan Manuel Santos political capital, as he approaches a bid for re-election next year. The campaign is likely to be difficult, with
Santos believes that the announcement of tentative agreement between the government and the FARC will increase his political popularity. However, this is not necessarily accurate. Many in Colombia continue to see the FARC as a terrorist group at best or a drug financed movement at worst. The military and the paramilitary movement are also not very popular in the country. Abuses in the past have disillusioned many.
When the FARC tried to begin a political party during the last round of talks in 1999, the paramilitary massacred all those that were foolish enough to declare themselves candidates for office under the Patriotic Union (the political party of the FARC). Additionally, the military intentionally killed thousands of innocent people who they dubbed members of the FARC to raise the supposed success of the movement.
The armed conflict of the government with the FARC and the smaller ELN, the Army of National Liberation, has caused an estimated 200,000 fatalities and displaced millions.
In an informal survey of about 25 upper middle class Colombians reveals expectations surrounding the talks:
- The great majority is happy that the talks may result in the stoppage of violence;
- The majority believe the FARC command should be found culpable and should spend some time in jail;
- Neither the FARC nor the military are seen as holding the upper ground ethically;
- About half don’t agree that the FARC should have their political rights restored or affirmed;&
- Most believe that the greatest risk in any agreement will be faced by the FARC. The 1953 and 1999 experiences looms big in this prediction;
- The “devil is in the details” of the agreement.
Some believe FARC commanders could be accused of crimes against humanity, which would disqualify them from holding office. However, so far, there has been no such designation.
Many Colombians are keeping their fingers crossed that something substantial will result from the talks and end the violence. Others are ready to reject any agreement short of an unconditional surrender by the FARC and jail terms for all their active members. The candidate for the presidency for Uribe’s party, Oscar Zuluaga, has publicly stated that the FARC participants in the talks should be in jail instead. Some have said that privately he has said that if elected he would drive the negotiators out of Cuba with lead.
The situation, regardless of new advances in talks, is far from certain.
Follow the 21st Century Pacifist on Facebook (Mario Salazar) and Twitter (chibcharus).
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.