Colombian peace talks begin
The eyes of the world were glued to their TV screens. TeleSUR and the BBC in Spanish transmitted live the almost three-hour-long press conference of the representatives of FARC-EP and the Colombian government on Oct. 18, at the end of the establishment of the Peace Negotiation table in Oslo, Norway.
All in Latin America have important interests at stake with these talks, because Washington uses the Colombian military to threaten neighboring countries that pursue a development independent of U.S. imperialism. Colombia is even known by the people of the region as “the Israel of Latin America.”
For the Colombian people, their lives and future are at stake. Colombia has not known peace for more than 60 years. In 1946, the oligarchy together with the state opened a violent repression against the movement for social and economic justice. This movement’s leader, Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, was murdered in April 1948. His death marked the beginning of “La Violencia,” a period which has lasted until today.
Although the FARC-EP was born in 1964, its historical roots are grounded in the response to this tremendous violence that took the lives of more than 300,000 Colombians.
The September press conference
The FARC-EP’s news conference in early September in Cuba announced the negotiations, which would center around five main points agreed upon by both parties: comprehensive agricultural development policy; political participation; an end of the conflict; a solution to the problem of illicit drugs; and support for the victims (human rights and a search for the truth).
That conference ended the first of three phases of negotiations. First, was the exploratory, in which representatives of both parties held talks for six months in Cuba. This led to the second phase, whose opening was set for Oslo and would continue in the third and final phase in Havana, Cuba, with the signing of the accord and its implementation.
Initially scheduled for Oct. 8, the second phase had to be postponed because of the Colombian president’s health problem and most importantly, for the assurance that Interpol would cancel orders to capture the FARC representatives who would have to travel from the mountains of Colombia to Oslo.
In Oslo, both parties initiated the conference by reading a joint statement, followed by their own pronouncements. Then, the many international reporters in attendance were to ask questions. These sessions were held separately after short breaks.
First, one spokesperson for the Colombian government, Humberto de la Calle, who was vice president (1994-1997) under President Ernesto Samper, would respond. While de la Calle was the interior minister under President César Gaviria, he took part in the failed 1991 peace negotiations.
In his article in Kaos en la Red, Alex Vernot quotes Álvaro Leiva, a politician from the Conservative Party who has taken part in many negotiations. Leiva said de la Calle’s “mission was to go to Caracas [where one part of the 1991 talks would take place] to damage the dialogues.”
De la Calle’s statement during the conference in Oslo gave a hint of the extreme difficulties of this process. It showed the intransigence and goals of a government that is not interested in peace for the Colombian people, but in a pacification for the benefit of both national and transnational businesses.
De la Calle’s comments regarding the disarming of the FARC, as a condition of their participation in political life — something that is not even part of the five-point agreement — made the government’s intransigence clear. He also said that the “Free Trade Agreements” and the economy, other crucial points, were not part of the discussions.
In short, he eliminated the most basic elements of the negotiations, since the first point will be the “comprehensive agricultural development policy,” which by necessity will have to discuss economy and take into consideration that 52 percent of Colombia’s land is controlled by only 1 percent of its people.
Iván Márquez, from the FARC Secretariat, opened with a statement that reflects the insurgent group’s profound desire for peace: “We have come to this 60th parallel, to this city of Oslo, from the remote tropics, from the Macondo of Injustice, the third most unequal country in the world, with a collective dream of peace, with an olive branch in our hands.”
He then gave a magnificent account of the origin of the armed conflict. It is worth reading in its entirety at www.anncol.eu since it illustrates the intense inequality in Colombia with facts and figures that show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the criminal usurpation of land and wealth by oligarchs and transnational corporations, leaving behind 70 percent of the population in poverty. He spoke of the violence and repression of the state, along with the role of corporations and the United States military.
Márquez ended with the FARC’s demand to include Simón Trinidad, a FARC leader serving a 60-year sentence in a U.S. prison, as part of the negotiations. The Colombian Prosecution Office already has accepted the demand and will make the necessary technological arrangements to facilitate the virtual appearance of Trinidad in the negotiations. The FARC, however, wants his physical presence, and is asking the international community and particularly progressive forces in the United States to help pressure the U.S. government to let Trinidad join them in Cuba.
The FARC also invited the international community to accompany them in this process and made a special and strong appeal to the social movements in Colombia to be active participants in the process. Judging by the recent developments in Colombia, this latter request is already being acted on at many levels.
The next meeting of both parties will be in Cuba on Nov. 5.