Three weeks ago, breaking news announced the killing of Alfonso Cano, commander of the FARC, during a military operation in the department of Cauca in southwestern Colombia. Questions were raised about the effects this could have on the possibility of peace negotiations with the FARC, a scenario considered by some as the only possible way to end Colombia’s enduring conflict.
Then, a few days later, the FARC announced the appointment of Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry (a.k.a. “Timochenko”)—a somewhat gray personality—as successor of Cano in the FARC’s top command position. Analysts approached the news from many points of view: among these, they wondered what would be the effect of such designation in the possibility of peace negotiations with the FARC. Oddly enough, only a few days later we are forced to raise the question again; this time, however, due to horrific news.
On the morning of Saturday, November 27, news media reported that in Caquetá (in the southern region of Colombia) the FARC had shot and killed four members of the Army and the police who they had kidnapped more than 10 years ago. An army sergeant and three members of the police (a colonel, a major and an agent) were shot at close range—in the head and in the back—when the FARC members sensed the proximity of an Army patrol. The Colombian Army had been searching the area, trying to establish the precise place where the FARC kept hostages. Apparently, the purpose was to provide Special Forces with this information so that they could execute a commando raid similar to the one they performed on June 13, 2010, which resulted in the liberation of four hostages in a similar area.
Incredibly, one of the hostages in the group, Police Sergeant Luis Alberto Erazo, managed to escape the massacre. As soon as he heard the first shots, he instinctively ran into the jungle. According to Erazo, FARC members had told them to stick by their side in the case of combat, promising not to hurt them and to release them if they could no longer keep them. This turned out to be a cruel scam: had Erazo followed those directions―as his fellow hostages apparently did―he wouldn’t be alive today.
El tsunami de noticias que sacude permanentemente a Colombia es una de las cosas por las que me gusta ser periodista en este país. No se acaba de reponer uno de una tremenda cobertura sobre las elecciones regionales cuando la agenda de la guerra, de la paz y de la protesta social, sigue moviendo las fichas del rompecabezas de esta nación sudamericana.
En principio, muchas cosas hay que decir sobre el acontecer poselectoral. En términos de ganadores cabe mencionar a la registraduría por la rápida entrega de resultados y la puesta en marcha de la huella biométrica que afina un camino exitoso contra el fraude en las elecciones de 2014, más aún si el mentado voto electrónico se materializa.
A U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks today, dated November 16, 2008, from then-U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, William B. Wood, reveals that former President Alvaro Uribe authorized “clandestine cross-border operations against the FARC in Venezuela, while trying to avoid a repeat of a crisis generated by the capture of FARC official Rodrigo Granda in Caracas in 2003.” Ambassador Wood’s cable contradicts official statements by Colombian officials that Mr. Granda was seized on Colombian territory and appears to support claims by Venezuela that Mr. Granda was captured in Caracas and then transferred to Colombia.
The cable also reveals Uribe’s strategy for dealing with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was based on efforts to “manage Chávez as opposed to confront him” for both economic and security reasons. This strategy included Uribe’s agreement to peace talks with ELN guerillas, facilitated by Mr. Chávez, because it was “better to have Chávez inside the process than outside causing problems.”
The release of the 2006 cables follows correspondence released in December 2010, in which Mr. Uribe told U.S. Admiral Mike Millen that he was “prepared to authorize Colombian forces to cross into Venezuela, arrest FARC leaders, and bring them to justice in Colombia.” The accounts contained in the cables also stand in contrast to current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ efforts to restore diplomatic ties with Venezuela last August, after over a year of tensions that included trade embargos and accusations that Chávez supports Colombia’s rebel groups in Venezuela.
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) today published an open letter to the Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR) proposing that the multilateral organization begin mediating long-stalled talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. According to the letter, the FARC continues to desire a “political resolution to the conflict” and is “ready to explain during a UNASUR assembly, our vision of the Colombian conflict.”
The letter is the FARC’s second public statement since the inauguration of Colombia’s new President Juan Manuel Santos, following a July 30 video message to Mr. Santos that proposed restarting direct talks.
President Santos has not outright rejected the new overtures but has insisted that that any new talks must be "based on the unalterable premise that (the guerrillas) give up arms, kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, and intimidation".
Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner met this week with both sides of the simmering dispute between Colombia and Venezuela. Colombia has alleged that the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) is operating out of bases on the Venezuelan side of the border, and in response, President Hugo Chávez has cut off all diplomatic relations with the Uribe government.
On Monday, Kirchner saw Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, who is visiting heads of state in Latin America before his August 7 inauguration. The two leaders pledged to work to “strengthen the Latin American union,” according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Acknowledging the Colombia-Venezuela schism directly, Kirchner also said, “We’re trying to establish a dialogue, very quietly, with great patience but with the strong will that Argentina and the rest of the region will always contribute to peace.”
Then just before lunch today, Fernández de Kirchner received Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro at the presidential residence. Following the meeting, Maduro thanked the Argentine President and praised her role as mediator, saying, “The only solution to this conflict is peace.”
On Thursday, the region’s foreign ministers will meet in Ecuador to discuss the dispute, under the auspices of UNASUR, the organization of South American countries.