Saturday, September 08, 2012

FARC talk

Adam Isacson points to a paper he published nine years ago about the peace process in Colombia in 1998-2002. Much of what he wrote is still relevant. The FARC hates the Colombian elite and wants a piece of the corruption and political power that elite has held for many years. The U.S. government officially gave positive statements but criticism came from Republicans in Congress (such as Roger Noriega, then working for Sen. Jesse Helms). Conservative sentiment remains rather World War IIish in style, seeing the drop of an atomic bomb and unconditional surrender as the essential model of conflict.

One difference with the current iteration is the perception of who is winning. At the time, the FARC believed it was winning on the battlefield and so did not need to concede much of anything. They can't think that now, but how much will that matter for concessions? Presumably that will make the FARC more willing to negotiate, but it is still quite strong militarily. It also means that President Santos has refused to agree to a ceasefire.

Another difference is the use of Hugo Chávez. At the time he wanted to play a role and was shut out. Now he is part of the process, as of course is Cuba. The entire process is more likely to succeed if he feels he has a stake in making it work, even if many in Colombia and the United States view it as unpalatable.


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