“The FARC are scared of reaching a peace agreement,” Daniel Pécaut told Cali based newspaper El Pais de Cali in an interview recently.
Pécaut is a French sociologist and historian who has covered Colombia’s armed conflict almost since it started. He went on to add that it would be very difficult to secure a peace deal in the time remaining.
“Yo creo que será difícil en el plazo que queda y es muy difícil con elecciones sin saber nada de los resultados de meses de negociación.
La idea fundamental es que en el país no hay movilización en favor de la paz, son muy pocos los preocupados por la paz y por eso de los dos lados están más o menos aislados.
“I believe that it will be difficult in the time that remains and it’s very difficult with elections without knowing anything about the results of months of negotiation. The fundamental issue is that there isn’t mobilization in favor of peace, very few are worried over a peace deal and for that reason the two sides are getting more and more isolated.”
It’s been nearly one year after members of Colombia’s government and FARC guerrillas met in Havana, Cuba to start peace talks.
January 15th, 2013 MEDELLÍN (Colombia Reports) – Colombia’s largest rebel group, FARC, on Monday set agrarian reform and a decrease in inequality as their minimum demands for reaching a peace agreement with the government.
In an interview sent to Colombia Reports, the guerrilla’s lead negotiator “Ivan Marquez” — whose real name is Luciano Marin — laid out their principal demands in negotiations.
“The minimums? Comprehensive rural reform and the reversal of the Gini coefficient,” said Marquez. The Gini coefficient is the main statistical measure of a country’s inequality. According to the World Bank, Colombia currently has the seventh worst in the world, comparable with Haiti and Angola.
“There’s a common diagnosis on the situation of misery that, like a weed, invaded the Colombian countryside. The Gini coefficient of 0.89 is a mirror that reflects the terrible inequality that is prevalent in this sector. The government doesn’t even have the strength or the arguments to challenge those sad figures of injustice,” explained Marquez.
Though the Colombia government has claimed that its economic model is not up for debate in the peace talks, Marquez insists that omitting it from the talks is “not consistent with the spirit of the General Agreement of Havana.”
“It is impossible for the deepening of neoliberal policy, promoted by [President Juan Manuel] Santos, and the delivery of territory to the multinational extractive industry to escape the discussion about land access and use, and food sovereignty,” said the rebel negotiator.
“Dignified life in the cities depends on rural stability, and vice versa. It should strengthen the symbiotic relationship so that Colombia moves forward. We must democratize national life, beginning with the democratization of land ownership,” Marquez claimed.
Just prior to the restart of negotiations on Monday, the Colombian government and FARC studied more than 500 proposals from citizens, gathered during a forum hosted by the U.N., along with input from university professors, experts, and peace commissions regarding the contentious matter of land reform.
Marquez said that all input from the committees would be given serious consideration by the FARC delegation, declaring that “they contain the hope of solving the problem that many rural people have longed for…this is the key to peace.”
In the interview, the rebel leader showed a willingness to reach a peace agreement before November, the deadline imposed by President Santos, but said he refused to prematurely sign a deal.
“Although we’re in no electoral hurry, we hope to be able to have an integrated agrarian reform before November,” Marquez said.
Both the government and rebels have labeled land reform as crucial for the signing of any treaty that would put an official end to almost 50 years of fighting — the longest-running civil conflict on the continent.
During his Christmas address, Santos spoke of the importance of reaching social justice, signaling a willingness to confront the same issues Marquez speaks of in future rounds of talks. In a speech towards the end of December, the Colombian presidentspoke of “a true peace; a peace that is not just the end of violence but also progress towards a greater social justice.” The FARC, ever since peace talks began, have stressed the necessity for peace “with social justice.”
Nevertheless, according to Marquez peace is not yet within reach.
“We are taking the first steps [that] we all know are complex. We need navigation equipment. To reach our destiny of peace we need GPS and compass, statistics, figures and land registries. But in Colombia this support does not exist or is insufficient. We need to know what is going to be redistributed, returned and formalized. It can’t just be wastelands.”
January 8th, 2013 MEDELLÍN (Colombia Reports) – The Odyssean story of Sergeant Jose Guarnizo, a former hostage now condemned for participation in a massacre, has shed light on the extraordinary complexity of Colombia’s half-century armed conflict.
Guarnizo fell into the hands of the country’s largest guerrilla group, FARC, in July 1997 in the northern Antioquia department. Along with a handful of high-ranking officials, the sergeant was taken captive, and remained a hostage for six years until May 2003 when he was rescued by security forces. The rescue, however, did not run smoothly, and ended in the deaths of other hostages, including former Defense Minister Gilberto Echeverry and the then-governor of Antioquia, Guillermo Gaviria.
Then, two years after his release, Guarnizo was convicted for his role in a 1992 massacre of seven farmers in the central Meta Department. The courts sentenced him to over 33 years in prison.
But three years later, in 2008, a local court in the Meta Department acquitted him on the grounds that it was impossible for Guarnizo to have been in the town during the time of the murders.
Liberation was fleeting for the sergeant — just before courts entered recess in December 2011, the sentence was reinstated.
“They have not issued the arrest warrant, but they left me with a sentence of 34 years for the process that I had won in the first instance,” Guarnizo told the Associated Press.
Much like the Sergeant’s story, Colombia’s half century of armed conflict between leftist guerillas, illegal paramilitary groups and the Colombian state is like a labyrinth.
Where it will end is hard to see.
Tanja Nimeijer, a Dutch citizen, is set to join the Peace Talks between the FARC and the Colombian government in Havana as a representative for the Marxist guerrillas, according to the Colombian news magazine Semana.
Nimeijer joined the FARC after working as an English teacher in the city of Pereira. The teacher-turned-guerrilla says that she chose Colombia purely by coincidence because it offered an opportunity to fulfill a university internship requirement.
Nimeijer’s university instructors observed strong left-leaning political inclinations during her studies as a student of Romance literature in the Netherlands.
The message about the Dutch woman’s participation was reportedly not received well by the Colombian government because Nimeijer is not a Colombian citizen.
After concluding a round of press conferences in Oslo, Norway, the Peace Talks will move to Havana, Cuba. The talks between the FARC and the Colombian government began in secrecy in February of this year, and the intention to engage was made public by Juan Manuel Santos in August.
The armed conflict between the FARC and the Colombian state began in 1964.