Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Colombia’s Santos faces tougher peace talks: Pastrana

BOGOTA (Reuters) – The last Colombian president to negotiate with Marxist rebels says current leader Juan Manuel Santos will face an even tougher time in new talks because of opposition from the far right and doubts about whether rebel leaders are united.

Andres Pastrana led the last attempt at peace more than a decade ago, but those talks collapsed and they were seen as having helped the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, build up their fighting forces.

- Advertisement -

Half-way through his four-year term, Santos is staking his reputation and political future on a new round of peace talks set to start in October with the drug-funded FARC rebels, who took up arms almost 50 years ago in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands.

Pastrana is warning that possible divisions inside the FARC could make it a lot more difficult to reach a peace deal.

“Are the FARC united? Are all the (FARC divisions) in the negotiation?,” Pastrana asked rhetorically in an interview late on Tuesday with Reuters at his office.

“During our negotiation, one knew that when (FARC founder Manuel) Marulanda was there and took a decision, it was monolithic. Today, are these decisions monolithic or is there a front that wants to continue drug trafficking or that doesn’t want to enter into a peace process? That is the doubt.”

- Advertisement -

Pastrana’s negotiations from 1999 to 2002 gave rebels a demilitarized area the size of Switzerland, but further talks collapsed after guerrillas hijacked an airplane.

The failure paved the way for conservative Alvaro Uribe to take over the presidency with a clear mandate to crack down on the FARC.

A decade of Uribe’s U.S.-backed offensive more than halved the guerrilla army’s ranks and pushed it back to remote jungle and mountain hide-outs.

Down but not out, the FARC increased its attacks in the last two years of Uribe’s government and has continued to harass government forces since Santos took office.

Elected in a landslide in 2010 promising to keep up Uribe’s tough stance, Santos has seen his approval ratings drop, with many Colombians believing that the security gains during Uribe’s presidency have been reversed.

While most Colombians approve of peace talks set to start in Norway next month and then move to Cuba, polls show that more than half would oppose any deal allowing FARC leaders to participate in politics or giving them an amnesty for crimes committed in the conflict – likely to be two key issues in negotiations.

- Advertisement -

Uribe has become the most vocal critic of Santos on security policy, saying he has been too soft on the FARC and will be negotiating from a position of weakness.

According to a poll by Ipsos Napoleon Franco published this week, 54 percent of Colombians do not want to see Santos re-elected in 2014.


Pastrana questioned why the FARC rebels did not include anyone on their negotiating team from the “Southern Block”, which is the most powerful of its regional divisions and has the strongest links to drug trafficking.

“It does raise questions that people like (FARC secretariat member and Southern Block commander) Joaquin Gomez aren’t at the table, a guy who maintains military control. And Joaquin Gomez is where the heart of drug trafficking is,” Pastrana said.

The FARC negotiating team is widely seen as coming more from its political wing. Only one known member of its ruling seven-member secretariat is expected to participate in the talks.

Santos promises his government has learned from the mistakes of previous leaders who tried but failed to clinch a lasting deal, and he has been cautious when talking about the possible success of the discussions.

Santos’ government and the FARC have set an agenda for talks that includes the rights of victims, land ownership in rural areas and cocaine production and smuggling.

Pastrana said that Santos would go up against the ultra-right in trying to carry out reforms, specifically new criminal gangs that emerged out of the demobilization of right-wing paramilitaries between 2003 and 2006.

The gangs are less ideological than their paramilitary predecessors and more interested in protecting their criminal enterprises, though still heavily linked to the far-right.

A key Santos reform and a demand by the FARC – giving stolen land back to displaced peasants – has already run into heavy resistance in former paramilitary areas, meaning that any future land reform that could emanate from the talks would face resistance.

Pastrana said the country was more divided now than it was when he tried negotiations.

“They elected me to make peace … 100 percent of the country joined me. They elected Uribe to make war and 100 percent of the country supported him,” he said. “Today, (Santos) is going to have a division within the country, and that is not going to be good for the president.”

- Advertisement -

We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of onlinemagazines that includes Rico brings his special kind of savvy to online marketing. His websites are engaging, provocative, informative and sometimes off the wall, where you either like or you leave it. The same goes for him, like him or leave him.There is no middle ground. No compromises, only a passion to present reality as he sees it!

Related Articles

Bogotá, Medellín and Cali: the cities with the most violations of measures against covid-19

QCOLOMBIA - Since the mandatory isolation began in Colombia, 1,400,387 finess...

What happens if a Colombian does not attend the scheduled covid-19 vaccination appointment?

QCOLOMBIA - A few days after starting the National Vaccination Plan,...


What happens if a Colombian does not attend the scheduled covid-19 vaccination appointment?

QCOLOMBIA - A few days after starting the National Vaccination Plan, Colombians still have some doubts regarding their immunization process and there is fear...

We do not move even half the passengers we would have on a normal day: Transmilenio manager

QCOLOMBIA - The public transport system in Colombia has been one of the worst-hit sectors since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as quarantines...

Colombia Suffered Its Deepest Slump Since 1905 Last Year

(Bloomberg) -- Colombia’s economy suffered its deepest contraction in more than a century last year, leaving it wracked by soaring debt, mass unemployment and...

Colombia receives first batch of vaccines

QCOLOMBIA - Colombia advanced the start of the immunization campaign against the coronavirus to February 17, three days ahead of schedule, after receiving the...

There’s A Good Chance Your Valentine’s Flowers Come From Colombia

QCOLOMBIA - If you send a bouquet of roses for Valentine's Day, chances are they were grown in Colombia. It remains the No. 1...

Colombia begins 2021 with a reactivation of 55% in flights

QCOLOMBIA - The end of the year travel season arrived with important expectations of recovery for the tourism sector. The improvement in the tourist...

Pope thanks Colombia for efforts to protect migrants

Q REDAQTED (Vatican News) - “I always look with gratitude at the efforts of those who work for migrants,” Pope Francis said on Sunday...

Colombia okays US$38 billion dollar reactivation plan

QCOLOMBIA - Colombia’s economic and social policy council (Conpes) has greenlighted a 135 trillion Colombian peso (US$38 billion) economic reactivation plan, which will be...

Colombian Clever Leaves made first shipment of medical cannabis to the U.S.

QCOLOMBIA - Clever Leaves, a Colombian company authorized to handle pharmaceutical grade cannabinoids, announced that its subsidiary, Herbal Brands, managed to establish a strategic...


Get our daily newsletter with the latest posts directly in your mailbox. Click on the subscribe and fill out the form. It's that simple!