FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Peace Talks Begin in Colombia

According to Colombia’s El Tiempo, 75% of Colombians want a dialogue between the Colombian government and the guerillas.    And, this stands to reason, for Colombia has been devastated by over 50 years of armed conflict which has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians (between 50 and 250 thousand of whom were “disappeared”); left over 5 million persons internally displaced (the largest IDP population in the world); and given a pretext for the Colombian government, with the aid of its paramilitary allies, to wipe out progressive organizations, including trade unions, working for social change.  On a grander scale, the Colombian conflict has provided a convenient pretext for U.S. military intervention in that country and the entire region and has been the biggest hurdle to the dream of Latin American integration.

It is therefore welcome and monumental news that the Colombian government yesterday confirmed rumors that it has signed an agreement with the largest guerilla group, the FARC, to commence peace talks, and that it shall include the ELN guerillas in this peace process as well.

Experience has shown that such peace talks are fragile.    Colombia has gone through a number of peace processes, but they have all ended badly thus far.   The most notable failed peace process took place in the 1980’s when the FARC agreed to end the armed insurgency in return for being able to participate in Colombian political life through the Patriotic Union party (UP).   In a great act of treachery, the Colombian military and paramilitary death squads responded to this deal by murdering around 5,000 UP leaders and activists, and the FARC commenced hostilities anew.

Meanwhile, as The Miami Herald reports this morning, both sides of the conflict have made it clear that they will not cease armed conflict during the peace talks; on the contrary, battles between the guerillas and the Colombian military and police have increased in recent months.   More troubling, the main non-violent group calling for peace talks – the Patriotic March – has been increasingly vilified by the Colombian government (quite untruthfully) as FARC supporters, and a number of Patriotic March leaders have been threatened, jailed, killed or disappeared with increasing frequency.   And, just as these peace talks have commenced, and as such attacks against peace activists have escalated, the Colombian government has cut in half the support for the beneficiaries of its government protection program – a program which purports to protect peace and social activists from these very attacks.  In short, there are many reasons to be very cautious in our optimism for these talks.

At the same time, there are reasons for hope.   For its part, the FARC took an important step in the direction of peace earlier this year by renouncing its long-time practice of kidnapping (a tactic of raising money through ransom).   As for the Colombian government, President Santos has exhibited much more openness to peace talks than his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, and has been much more moderate in his rhetoric about the guerillas and about the Colombian non-violent left as well.   Santos has even begun a land reform program which purports to give back land to Colombians (particularly those of the indigenous and Afro-Colombian community) whose land was seized unlawfully during the conflict.   While it remains to be seen how successful this program will be, and while the program itself has inspired paramilitary groups to violently attack those standing to take back land that the paramilitaries wrongfully seized during the conflict, the overture is an important one for the guerillas whose primary demand over the decades has been meaningful land reform.   Finally, the accelerated growth of the peace movement in Colombia, most notably through the establishment of the Patriotic March, will add critical support to these talks.

As usual, the important wild card is the United States – the financial backer of the Colombian military and the author of Colombia’s anti-insurgency program beginning in 1962.   The only way that the peace process will be successful is for the U.S. to support the process, or, at the very least, get out of the way to allow it to go forward and prosper.   So far, the U.S. has shown no willingness to support peace in Colombia, instead opting to exploit the conflict to retain its last military beachhead in the Latin American region – a region which, much to the chagrin of the U.S., is increasingly radicalizing and turning leftward.   A key factor in the peace process, then, is a strong movement of citizens in the U.S. who will support peaceful actors, such as the Patriotic March, in Colombia, and put political pressure on the U.S. government to allow peace to flourish in Colombia.   This is a momentous opportunity for President Obama to finally earn his Nobel Peace Prize (3 years after the fact) and we must encourage him to seize upon this opportunity.

As a final note, the Cuban government must again be applauded for playing its positive role in this process.   As it has in the past, Cuba hosted the initial talks which led to the commencement of this peace process, and, along with Norway, will continue to host such talks throughout the process.   This tiny island, much vilified by our government, continues to play its positive role in our hemisphere for peace, regional stability and public health.   The shamefulness of the U.S.’s continued blockade of that country grows each day as Cuba outshines the U.S. in terms of its contributions to the world.

Daniel Kovalik is a labor and human rights attorney living in Pittsburgh and teaches International Human Rights Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

More articles by:

Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
David Yearsley
Call Saul
Elliot Sperber
Ecology Over Economy 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail