With all the fanfare and excitement of the Olympic Games in London and the US’ presidential conventions, an event in Colombia has escaped the media’s eye: Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the leftist guerrilla movement, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc), have resumed.
On August 26, news leaked that representatives of the two groups met in Havana, in preliminary rounds of negotiations held by Cuba and Norway. According to the Financial Times, in March, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos met with Cuban President Raúl Castro and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez in Havana to lay the groundwork for initiating peace talks.
President Santos confirmed the rumors. He states that the talks would occur on three conditions: the Colombian military would continue anti-guerrilla operations throughout the country, the talks must lead to peace and that no errors of the past be repeated. He has extended the olive branch to the country’s other major leftist guerrilla organization, the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional).
The Farc also confirmed these meetings in a conference held September 4 in Havana. The peace negotiations will begin in Oslo in October, and later move to Havana. Norway and Cuba will be the guarantors to the talks, with the additional presence of Venezuela and Chile.
OAS (Organization of American States) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza supports the peace process. He states, “May this process be carried out in good faith and with the conviction that its success can last to a lasting peace.”
The last time the Colombian government and the Farc sat down at the peace table was in 2002.
The third faction in Colombia’s on-going, 64-year-old civil war—the paramilitaries—are absent in these negotiations. During Álvaro Uribe’s eight years as president (2002-2010), this group was demilitarized in a highly publicized campaign. In the eyes of the government and the mainstream media, this group ceased to exist.
However, according to human and indigenous rights organizations, paramilitary forces continue to attack communities in isolated regions of the country. The Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Colombia Taskforce reports further attacks against San José de Apartadó, in northern Antioquia Department, which has spent 25 years as a peace community. In the deepest reaches of the Guajira, Comisión Intereclesial de Paz y Justicia cites cases against Wayu’u and Afro-Colombian settlements.
If successful, the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Farc may end attacks against other communities, like the Embera of the Chocó and the peace communities of the Nasa indigenous nation. In the remote countryside of Cauca Department, these villages mounted a protest against the presence of these two factions this past July, and talks were scheduled between the Nasa and government to deal with issues.
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