Una reflexión conjunta de los movimientos sociales armados en México. Su historia, su presente y su futuro. Sin sensacionalismo pero sin condescendencias.
domingo, 5 de julio de 2015
Time to call the FARC’s bluff
IT WAS never going to be easy. Three times since the 1980s Colombian governments have tried but failed to broker peace with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Even so, the latest talks seemed set to succeed in ending a conflict that has dogged Latin America’s third-most-populous country. Facing strengthened security forces, the FARC, a narco-Stalinist outfit, has lost all hope of military victory. Unlike the previous efforts, the negotiations are following a tight agenda, of five points, aimed at ending the conflict for good. They take place in Havana, opaquely, in an effort to insulate them from the continuing conflict back home.
But the process has been grindingly slow. After 32 months agreements have been reached on only three of the five points. In the past year the two sides have become bogged down on the most difficult issue—transitional justice, or what punishment, if any, guerrilla leaders accused of war crimes should face.
Now, for the first time, the whole peace process looks in jeopardy. In April the FARC killed 11 soldiers bivouacked in a village sports centre in Cauca, in the south of the country. This broke an indefinite ceasefire declared by the guerrillas in December. With Colombians outraged, President Juan Manuel Santos ordered a resumption of bombing raids: more than 40 guerrillas, including two former negotiators, were killed. Their ceasefire formally abandoned, the FARC have staged almost daily attacks on oil pipelines and electricity pylons, on one occasion spilling 10,000 barrels of oil into a river.
Through all this, the talks in Havana have continued. On June 4th the two sides agreed on the terms of an 11-member Truth Commission, to take testimony from protagonists and victims of an extraordinarily messy conflict that has involved right-wing paramilitaries as well as the FARC and the army. Another accord, on reparations to victims, seems close.
But this evidence of momentum looks to be too little, too late. The Cauca attack and what followed have exhausted public patience with the talks. In a poll taken in late April Mr Santos’s approval rating fell to 29%, from 43% in February. Divisions have appeared in the government.
The real damage from Cauca and its aftermath is what it reveals about the FARC. It suggests that some guerrilla units may not want peace. The leadership failed to condemn the attack, calling instead for the government to agree to a bilateral ceasefire. They know that this is politically impossible for Mr Santos until the talks are in sight of success and the FARC on the brink of demobilisation: the guerrillas used a government ceasefire during the previous talks in 1999-2002 to recruit and re-arm. The FARC’s negotiators seem happy to spin out the talks indefinitely. But Mr Santos faces a drumming of fingers from across the political spectrum.
That makes it urgent to clinch a deal on transitional justice. The outline of such an agreement has long been clear. Those guerrilla leaders accused of war crimes should face a special judicial tribunal. Those found guilty must spend some time, albeit much reduced, in a facility that can be described as a prison. Similar terms would apply to senior army officers accused of atrocities.
Punishment of some kind is essential if a peace agreement is to stick, and to be endorsed by public opinion (polls find that up to 80% of Colombians want the FARC to do jail time). According to Javier Ciurlizza of the International Crisis Group, an NGO, the FARC have in private at last accepted the principle of punishment, but want it meted out by an international tribunal and only after they have had the chance to build a political base. Those conditions are unacceptable to the government. Behind these quibbles lies a worrying philosophical abyss. The guerrillas still portray themselves as rebels against an abusive state, but most Colombians see them as a bunch of criminals who must show remorse and accept the rules of democracy.
The president, whose hobbies include poker, now faces a choice. Call the FARC’s bluff by laying on the table a take-it-or-leave-it offer on justice—or risk the talks collapsing anyway in the cycle of retaliation. Burdened by disappointments in other areas, Mr Santos has staked his presidency on a peace agreement. But objectively it is the FARC’s negotiators who need it more. Return to war in Colombia, and sooner or later they will be killed.
“If the talks break down, I don’t think anyone would have the patience to go through this again,” Sergio Jaramillo, Mr Santos’s chief peace negotiator, has said. True. But courting a breakdown may be the only way to succeed.