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.
After a half-century of armed conflict, representatives of the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) convened in Norway to inaugurate a new round of peace talks today.
The groups have been engaged in conflict since the 1960s, and for the first time the two sides will be present in a public meeting. Past attempts to secure peace have successfully demobilized about 37,000 paramilitary and guerrilla members, but have failed to negotiate a peace agreement with the FARC or with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN).
Despite last minute changes to the FARC negotiating team—such as the addition of Dutch combatant Tanja Nijmeijer as a spokesperson—Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has expressed “moderate optimism” about the process.
On the Colombian side, the chief government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, and peace commissioner Sergio Jaramillo have confirmed the Colombian government’s decision of not implementing a ceasefire until a final peace agreement is achieved. “If I see that there's no progress, that they are simply trying to buy time, I will stand up and continue business as usual,” Santos has said.
On the FARC side, Luciano Marín Arango—the number two of the armed group known as "Iván Márquez"—will be their most important negotiator at the table. He will be joined by peace negotiators Rodrigo Granda, alias "Ricardo Téllez"; Jesús Emilio Carvajalino, alias "Andrés París"; Luis Alberto Albán, alias "Marcos León Calarcá"; and Juvenal Ricardo Ovidio Palmera, alias "Simón Trinidad", who is serving a 60-year sentence in the United States for conspiracy and kidnapping.
Chile and Venezuela will act as “acompañantes” to help with logistics and provide diplomatic support. If successful, future rounds of the negotiation will continue in Havana, Cuba. The Colombian government hopes the ELN will also join the process.
Extra: Read AQ’s exclusive interview with Sergio Fajardo Valderrama, governor of Colombia’s Antioquia state, on his views and expectations of the peace process.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, 61, will undergo surgery in Bogotá today to remove a non-aggressive tumor located in the prostate gland. Details of the condition and the procedure were revealed by the president on Monday, hours after the tumor was discovered and only a week before the awaited peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) begin in Norway.
“There's a 97 percent chance of being totally cured,” assured the president, who joined the list of Latin American past and present leaders such as Presidents Hugo Chávez and Cristina Fernández, and former Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva and Fernando Lugo who have suffered from this condition in the past two years.
Andrés Paris, FARC’s spokesperson in Cuba, assured that the president’s health will not get in the way of the peace talks. According to Colombian affairs specialist Harvey Kline, if Santos is able to broker a peace deal with the FARC in the coming months, it will ensure his re-election in 2014. Experts estimate the FARC has today only one third of the combatants it had 10 years ago. Given the government’s military advantage over the armed group, this time a peace agreement seems increasingly plausible.
All actors, including former President Uribe—who has become the biggest opposition of Santos’ peace process—expressed their support to the president and wished for his short recovery. Santos will be conscious during the surgery and is expected to return to his residency in two or three days.
The annual celebration of International Day of Peace today holds special significance in Colombia given recent developments to try to end decades of conflict. Established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly, this day is meant to coincide with the opening session of the UNGA as well as raise public awareness on issues related to peace and ending violence.
Colombian institutions have made special arrangements for today. The popular musician Juanes is managing El Tiempo newspaper for the day, with Shakira and Miguel Bose stepping in as contributing columnists to write about different themes of peace.
This year’s International Day of Peace has special significance in Colombia. On Tuesday, President Juan Manuel Santos announced the capture in Venezuela of Daniel Barrera, known as El Loco—one of Colombia’s most powerful drug traffickers. Earlier this month, on September 4, President Santos announced the agreement to hold peace negotiations between his administration and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC). The talks will begin in Oslo, Norway, in early October.
With a recent surge in FARC attacks and the Colombian government’s continued pursuit and capture of FARC allies, the peace talks come at a vital time. While the negotiations will take place without a formal declared ceasefire, attempts are being made to ensure that these talks do not follow the trajectory of failed peace talks in the past. With the aim to make both sides feel at ease, Norway was chosen as a location due to its history in international mediation; Chile, a strong ally of Colombia, will be an observer. Cuba was chosen as a second location and Venezuela was also given observer status to make FARC feel more comfortable.
Lo impensable hace un mes, se estaba cocinando en secreto hace por lo menos un año: unas conversaciones exploratorias entre el gobierno y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) para la consecución de la paz en Colombia. La alocución este martes del presidente Juan Manuel Santos confirmó en modo, tiempo y lugar las noticias sueltas sobre unos acercamientos entre las partes que resultaron sorpresivos por haber manejado con éxito algo de lo que se ha carecido en anteriores procesos de paz: la discreción.
Y es quizá este factor el que hace revestir de optimismo este cuarto intento de paz en las últimas dos décadas, luego de frustrados diálogos durante los gobiernos de Belisario Betancur (1983) César Gaviria (1991-1992) y Andrés Pastrana (1999). El último es el más tristemente célebre por haber permitido que la guerrilla se fortaleciera militarmente y se metiera sin aspavientos (aún más) en el camino del narcotráfico. Su desmadre catapultó el escenario para que Álvaro Uribe fuera elegido como el presidente de la mano dura, propiciando ocho años más de conflicto en el que la palabra guerra fue el sustantivo preferido del Estado.
Hoy dos años después de que Uribe—el popular presidente y ruidoso expresidente—cediera su lugar a Santos, quien fuera su ministro de defensa y parece desmarcarse paulatinamente de la derecha, las FARC y el Gobierno han confirmado públicamente que hubo cerca de 10 rondas exploratorias en La Habana, que confían en la seriedad del otro y que se la están jugando a fondo por la paz. Este martes las FARC también hicieron dos alocuciones televisadas. Una de ellas, la más diciente, la del comandante ‘Timochenko” quien aseguró que llegan a la mesa de negociaciones “sin rencores, ni arrogancia” y otra que pasó casi desapercibida: un rap desafiante en el que un grupo de guerrilleros cuenta las bajas y éxitos que ha tenido la guerrilla, se muestran felices por irse para La Habana y porque a pesar de que los han llamado narcoterroristas durante décadas, el gobierno se sienta a conversar con ellos.
Aunque los resultados no pueden ser predecibles ahora, es rescatable que en estos últimos meses las conversaciones no se fueron al traste pese a que en el país sucedían hechos como la muerte del líder de la guerrilla Alfonso Cano, y acciones armadas de las FARC, con víctimas civiles, en todo el territorio nacional. También es innegable que la guerrilla que se sienta a negociar no es la de hace ocho años que tenía 14.000 hombres alzados en armas—hoy tiene 8.000—o cientos de secuestrados canjeables en su poder.
During a televised speech on Tuesday afternoon, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, will take place in October. Santos, who has been holding exploratory talks with the FARC since February, said that the talks will take place in Oslo, Norway and Havana, Cuba. Meanwhile, the FARC announced the peace talks in a video message broadcast to international journalists in Havana. The FARC's leader, Rodrigo Londono, or “Timochenko”, urged a "civilized dialogue" to end the fighting.
Both sides have signed a framework for the peace talks, addressing a conflict that has plagued Colombia since the mid-1960s. The plan is to begin formal peace negotiations in Oslo before moving to Havana. Cuba has mediated similar peace processes in the past, and this time Venezuela and Chile will also act as participants in the discussion.
RCN Radio reported that the agenda for discussion will include agrarian reform, political participation, drug trafficking, reparations for victims and the process for ending the conflict and implementing the peace deal.
The announcement has drawn criticism from former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who said that holding peace talks without a ceasefire is impossible.
Last weekend Colombian journal El Espectador revealed that the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Fuerzas Armandas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces⎯FARC) have made preliminary moves toward the launch of peace negotiations, initiating a series of opinions and speculation from different sectors of the Colombian government.
According to a report on Monday on Telesur, negotiations between the two parties began in Havana in May, assisted by representatives from Norway, Cuba and Venezuela. The formal opening of the peace negotiations will take place in Oslo on October 5, and will be continued in Cuba. The agenda for the negotiation will include topics such as demobilization, cessation of hostilities and disarmament.
Governmental sources noted that the Executive would not comment "for now" on the report issued by Telesur. However, these sources did confirm a meeting held Monday between President Santos and former OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria, a potential negotiator with the FARC.
While journalists and politicians discussed the details of the negotiation, agents of the Fiscalía General de Colombia arrested 22 members of the FARC in the department of Antioquia in northwestern Colombia. The detainees were seized on charges of rebellion, terrorism, and production, trafficking or possession of firearms and narcotics.
Top stories this week are likely to include: impact of the Amuay refinery tragedy in Venezeula; aftermath in the Caribbean of Tropical Storm Isaac; YPF and Chevron move toward an alliance; fallout of a cabinet shift in Colombia; and Canada seeks to strengthen commercial ties with Southeast Asia.
Disaster at Amuay Refinery Continues: After Saturday’s deadly explosion at the Amuay oil refinery in Venezuela’s Falcón state, much remains up in the air. Flames were still burning as of this morning, and President Hugo Chávez has ordered an investigation and declared three days of mourning. However, as the death toll remains unpredictable—it already climbed to 41 from 39 overnight, with 20 of the dead belonging to Venezuela’s National Guard—pay attention to any developments in the aftermath of the worst accident in Venezuela in recent memory.
Isaac Causes Damage: Over the weekend, Tropical Storm Isaac slammed Hispaniola, killing 10 total—eight in Haiti and two in the Dominican Republic—and displacing thousands. Haiti’s Civil Protection Office reported 14,000 had fled their homes and another 13,500 were living in temporary shelters. How will the island rebound? And what lies in store for Isaac? It is picking up speed in the Gulf of Mexico and will likely turn into a hurricane early this week, with projected landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, on Wednesday—six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the coastal city. (Donate to the American Red Cross.)
YPF, Chevron in Advanced Talks for Alliance: YPF, Argentina’s state-controlled energy company, is mulling a strategic accord with Chevron, Latin America’s leading private energy investor. YPF CEO Miguel Galuccio held a meeting on Friday with Ali Moshiri, Chevron’s Latin America chief, and noted that YPF needs more experienced partners to help develop Argentina’s massive shale reserves, which are the world’s third largest. Of particular interest is the Vaca Muerta field in the Nequén province, and Chevron is already involved in three wells in Vaca Muerta. Galuccio will present a five-year plan this Thursday.
Cabinet Shakeup in Colombia: Having recently crossed the halfway threshold into his four-year term, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos decided to reshuffle his cabinet last Thursday when he asked all 16 of his ministers to resign. Some posts have been reassigned; former mines minister Mauricio Cardenas has assumed the finance portfolio. However, Cardenas’ replacement, as well as other vacant posts, has not yet been named. This week will likely see movement in Santos’ cabinet.
Canada Seeks Increased Trade Ties in Asia: Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast begins a trade mission today to Southeast Asia, where he will conduct official visits to Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia followed by the first Canada-ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in Cambodia. Fast will then continue to Burma, marking the first time a Canadian trade minister has ever done so. In a statement, Fast said, “This year, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of relations between Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, we are committed to moving our trade and investment relationship with ASEAN forward.”
Top stories this week are likely to include: Fidel Castro’s birthday; Buenos Aires subway shutdown continues; public teachers to end striking in Panama; talks to renew in Colombia between the government and the Indigenous Nasa; and a possible dialogue over Venezuela’s detained U.S. Marine.
Fidel Turns 86 Years Old: Cuba’s revolutionary leader and former president, Fidel Castro, turns 86 years old today. He faces health issues, having stepped down from the presidency in 2006 after undergoing intestinal surgery—and has not been seen in public or mentioned in the news since June 19, according to Reuters. AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini notes of the occasion, “Six years ago when Fidel Castro stepped aside to pass the torch to his brother Raúl, people thought the end was near. Give the man's staying power credit, but really, what modern country in the region and in the world remains as centered and fixated on an 86-year-old man? It's a sign of how little Cuba—and U.S. policy toward the island—has progressed. We're all stuck in the past.”
Subway Shutdown in Buenos Aires: A strike by union employees of Buenos Aires’ municipal subway system is entering its tenth day today, with no end in sight after talks broke down on Friday with the administration of Mayor Mauricio Macri. The subway shutdown has inconvenienced between 600,000 and 1 million daily commuters. Macri, the most prominent figure of the opposition Propuesta Republicana (Republican Proposal—PRO) party, is blaming the ruling Frente para la Victoria (Front for Victory—FPV) party, to which President Cristina Fernández belongs. Macri is accusing FPV operatives of inciting the union workers, who are demanding a 28 percent increase in pay. Buenos Aires Deputy Mayor Maria Eugenia Vidal stated that the city officials “just don’t have the means to pay for this.” Pay attention to see if there will be any breakthrough in negotiations this week.
Teacher Strike to End in Panama: Leaders of a teacher strike in Panama reached an understanding with the government on Saturday to end the weeklong strike today. Teachers were protesting over issues such as decaying classrooms and insufficient pay.
Santos-Nasa Mediation To Resume in Colombia: Leaders of the Indigenous Nasa group expect to set a date by this Tuesday for the resumption of mediated talks with the government of Juan Manuel Santos. More than 10,000 Nasas marched in the department of Cauca yesterday demanding the government return to the table. Cauca, in southwest Colombia, is home to many rebels belonging to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC). The Santos administration, therefore, has placed many Colombian soldiers in Cauca as part of the ongoing internal conflict with the FARC, which the Nasa view as a threat to their territorial sovereignty. The Nasas and the government, however, hope to reach an agreement through mediation.
Venezuela-U.S. Showdown Over Detention: After Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced late last week that police have detained an American citizen who claimed to be a former U.S. Marine, tensions have flared between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. According to the Associated Press, a State Department official said that the U.S. authorities were not notified of his arrest. Chávez has openly suspected that the detainee, whose name has not been released, may be a “mercenary” scheming to destabilize Venezuela. Stay tuned to see if there may be more updates on this case in the coming week.
EXTRA, Rio 2016: After yesterday’s closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the world’s attention turns to Rio de Janeiro for 2016. But is the city ready? Check out AQ’s television segment on Brazil and the Olympics on the “Efecto Naím” program on NTN24.