Colombia revolutionaries announce peace talks

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples’ Army (FARC-EP), held a press conference in La Havana, Cuba, on Sept. 6 to announce the beginning of peace negotiations with the Colombian government.

Broadcast live almost entirely by CNNE (CNN in Spanish), the conference offered a unique opportunity to see and hear representatives of the FARC being treated for what they are — a belligerent force that represents the oppressed masses of Colombia in their search for peace with social justice.

There was no mention of words like “terrorists” or “narcoguerrilla” so pervasive in the commercial media. These are labels coined by the Pentagon to describe people’s armed movements. This concession on its own was a victory for the Colombian insurgency.

Surely the verbal change was not because CNNE suddenly became progressive and altered its position, becoming respectful of the guerrilla army. What the coverage of the conference did was show the tireless work the insurgency has accomplished for decades, trying to bring peace to the country.

The FARC, a Marxist-Leninist organization, was forced to open a guerrilla war in 1964 when the Colombian military, equipped by the United States, bombed Marquetalia, a liberated zone in the south where the communist group had taken refuge from the anticommunist attacks unleashed by the state.

Commander Mauricio Jaramillo, the FARC delegation’s leader, was accompanied by Ricardo Téllez, Andrés París, Hermes Aguilar, Sandra Ramírez and Marco León Calarcá. They all had been in Cuba for six months in conversation with Colombian government representatives.

Jaramillo started the press conference showing a video of Timoleón Jiménez, also known as Timochenko, the highest commanding officer of the FARC. In his statement, Jiménez thanked the governments of Cuba, Norway, Venezuela and Chile for their support of the negotiations. He stressed the commitment of the FARC to the peace process, which he put in the context of continued persecution by the Colombian state.

“It is clear to us,” Jiménez said, “that despite the official statements of peace, the insurgency arrived at this new attempt at reconciliation besieged, not only by the same military onslaught unleashed a decade ago, but openly compelled by their effort to take our desire for political and social change [and exchange it for] a miserable surrender. Despite these signals, the FARC-EP keeps the sincere aspiration that the regime will not try to repeat the same pattern of the past.”

President Santos had stated that his government will continue military operations against the insurgency and no cease fire will be declared. He said that only with the completion of the negotiations will the confrontation end.

After six months of initial intense “Exploratory” discussions, both parties signed the “General Agreement for the termination of the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace.” The second phase will open fully in Oslo, Norway, on Oct. 8 and will continue in Cuba.

Agenda for the talks

The five points of discussion reached by both parties are: 1) comprehensive agricultural development policy, 2) political participation, 3) end of the conflict, 4) solution to the problem of illicit drugs and 5) the victims (human rights and search for the truth).

These basic yet fundamental issues are at the roots of the conflict. The FARC-EP has clearly stated that they have always tried to work toward peace, but one which will deal effectively with the problems that gave birth to the conflict.

For example, in the first point, “Agricultural Development” raises possible agrarian reform, something crucial for the attainment of justice for the people of Colombia. There are many wealthy national and particularly transnational landowning interests that oppose serious agrarian reform that would help peasants and farm workers.

In spite of all the verbal guarantees given by the Colombian government for the success of these negotiations, the talks are between enemies that are still in active war with each other. How much will does Santos’ government have to carry on the talks in a serious manner? How will foreign interests and imperialism respond? There are many enemies of this attempt at peace, including the neofascist former President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe.

An important point made by the FARC was that these negotiations do not simply concern the interests of the government and the insurgency, but a much broader effort that must involve all the people and movements in Colombia.

In fact, a task of the progressive movements all over the world should be to support this process, a debt that is owed to the people of Colombia. And the best first step to show support is to expose the real enemies of peace and to reestablish the proper name of the Colombian insurgency: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples’ Army, FARC-EP and the National Liberation Army, ELN.

Next: History of peace negotiations and context of current negotiation: Santos’ pro-business/economic interests and the Colombian progressive movement.

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