FARC Negotiations in Colombia Halted by Kidnapping

By Allan J. Roberts

In Colombia, tensions remain high between former President Álvaro Uribe and current President Juan Manuel Santos. After Santos’s release of negotiation details with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Uribe responded with a scathing critique. The critique consists of 68 capitulations, questioning the validity of negotiating with the left-wing rebel army. The once-former allies have become bitter rivals since Santos began peace talks with the FARC two years ago in Havana, Cuba. (Please see 10/08/2014 blog post  “Progress in Colombia with FARC Negotiations” for further negotiation details.)

Then on Nov. 16, the FARC negotiations were thrown into turmoil with the kidnapping of Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate and two soldiers. Alzate, a top general for the Colombian army, was unarmed and in civilian clothing while visiting FARC territory. Both Colombian government officials and rebel leaders say they were unsure of the reason behind Alzate’s visit. The next day, The Colombian Ministry of Defense tweeted a message quoting Pres. Santos: “Negotiations with #FARC are suspended until the facts of the kidnapping of general (Ruben) Alzate are clarified.”

In response to halting the negotiations, the FARC justified their seizure of the general by explaining their unhappiness with the military’s involvement in peace talks. The rebel group also added that military personal were not included in the kidnapping terms, as they only agreed to non-government officials. Uribe condemned both parties with the following tweet: “Santos has allowed theFarc to feel they are equal to the armed forces, that’s why terrorists kidnap.”

Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe criticizes FARC negotiations

Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe criticizes FARC negotiations

As of Nov. 24, there were conflicting reports on the status of hostages. The FARC announced the release of at least two soldiers, though Alzate’s status is undetermined. Rebel leaders demand bilateral ceasefire from the government’s military, threatening to use Alzate as leverage to meet armed demands. Alzate is the highest-ranking official kidnapped in the FARC’s 50-year history. Santos has stayed firm in his refusal to lay down arms throughout the peace negotiations for safety concerns.

A public opinion poll published in response to the recent kidnappings shows 55 percent of Colombians supporting the peace process, but 53 percent are pessimistic about the outcome.

Santos has been in negotiations with FARC for the past two years. On May 27, 2013, the finalization of the Land and Rural Development agreement with the FARC was announced. Since then, details on the talking points and negotiations were kept from the public. Former Pres. Uribe and his Democratic Center party (formed in 2013 in response to the negotiations), spearheaded pressure for Santos to release all the previous talking points. The government and FARC relented under public outcry, releasing details on all the finalized deals thus far.

The talking points were released in conjunction with Santos’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Sept. 25.  As reported in Colombia Reports, the confirmed points are centered around three issues:

  • 1) Integrating agrarian development policy (Land and Rural Development) in the country.
  • 2) Allowing FARC political participation in Colombia’s government.
  • 3) Finding a solution to the problem of illicit drugs.

Uribe and his party responded on Oct. 23 with their own list of proposals. The 68 Capitulations of Santos in Havana: Democratic Center consists of 52 criticisms, including an additional 16 “citizen contributions” to the Democratic Center, as reported in El Heraldo. Uribe’s criticism of the released talking points include:

  • 1) Capitulations 1-27: criticizes the agrarian deal for giving FARC control of land that is labeled “limitless” without appropriation to FARC victims.
  • 2) Capitulations 28-43: criticizes the government’s lack of prosecution towards countless violent acts, murders and kidnappings throughout the FARC’s existence. Uribe says giving the FARC political power goes against the principles of democracy.
  • 3) Capitulations 44-68: criticizes FARC leaders for their refusal to handover any profits obtained illegally through the drug trade, as well as their refusal to surrender all military weapons.

Other concerns raised byUribe include the incentive for coca cultivation, as only those who voluntarily renounce cultivation are penalized. The list also points out conflicting reports of disinfecting coca plants. The government hasn’t ruled out fumigation, though theFARC insists it be abandoned.

Despite the “limitless” accusations from Uribe, the UN reports enough land can be brokered with the agrarian deal. The UN estimates 78 percent of Colombia’s arable land is still fallow. Furthermore, chief negotiator and former Vice President Humberto de la Calle announced the FARC would have to surrender their weapons to complete the peace process. In a Nov. 3 Caracol press release, de la Calle said, “The basic premise of this whole process is that once we sign a final agreement, the FARC will have to initiate the process of ceasing to have weapons in its power.”

While some critics view the “68 capitulations” as Uribe undermining Santos’s administration, legitimate concerns are raised on how negotiations will impact Colombia’s infrastructure. The 15th capitulation questions the government’s ability to finance new public institutions and facilities as part of peace negotiations. Current issues such as the $6.5 billion budget gap and decreased revenue from oil exports are causing great strain to Colombia’s economy.

Santos took a five-day tour of Europe in early November seeking funds for the peace process. His tour began in Madrid and continued through such cities as Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Lisbon and London. Santos is seeking $45 billion in aid over the next decade. Both the United States and European Union have given their support.

 Photograph by Center For American Progress from Wikimedia Commons.


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