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Column 020116 Brewer

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Political Expediency and Exploitation of FARC Peace Talks

By Jerry Brewer

Since 1964 one of the world’s longest wars has claimed the lives of an estimated “220,000 people and displaced 5.7 million.” This armed conflict against Colombia’s homeland and military by leftwing guerrillas and rightwing paramilitaries has frustrated Colombia’s leaders for decades.

It appears now that the FARC guerrillas (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) could possibly have outlasted and bamboozled the government of Colombia and others in finally gaining exemption and freedom from punishment from the injurious consequences of their violent actions and atrocities.

Last week Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that he is asking the United States to remove the FARC from its list of terrorist organizations and “suspend drug warrants against guerrilla commanders to help him seal a peace deal with Latin America's oldest leftist insurgency.”

Could it be that the evil specter of impunity that has viciously plagued so many violent regimes of this hemisphere has reared its ugly head again? And if it has, who are its facilitators?

Santos will visit U.S. President Barack Obama on February 4. Santos believes that it “would be appropriate for the Obama administration to strike the FARC from a State Department list of terrorist organizations.”

FARC has rightfully been on that list for nearly two decades.  Moreover, the U.S. DEA has shown direct and growing criminal drug ties between Colombia's FARC guerrillas and Hezbollah.

What is a special concern in all of this is that on May 29 of last year, President Obama removed Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. This “despite Cuba's ties to Marxist, jihadist and other separatist terrorist organizations.”

Cuban involvement in the peace talks with FARC and Colombia began in November 2012, in Havana, Cuba. The Cuban involvement, location and oversight of the process is quite possibly an explanation as to the past slow movement of these discussions that appeared more of a skillfully exploited situation; a charade of sorts that has seen rogue leftist government regimes in Venezuela and Cuba in support of the guerrillas.

The political support by Venezuela’s leftist government was obvious. At the annual State of the Nation address in the National Assembly, on January 11, 2008, then President Hugo Chavez referred to the FARC as "a real army that occupies territory in Colombia.” As well, he stated that the FARC were not terrorists because they had a political goal.

Throughout the peace talks in Cuba the FARC has asked to be forgiven for their atrocities and not to surrender their arms, while managing to maintain a strong political position of power and negotiation. Consequently, the FARC has taken advantage of previous concessions by the Colombian government to talk, disarm, and seek peace.

In the 1990s the FARC, via the leftist Patriotic Union Party, continued to wage war during peace talks with the Colombian government. The Colombian government consistently cited the lack of commitment by the FARC as to the process of talks, while the latter continued its criminal acts.

As far back as 1998 former Colombian President Andres Pastrana withdrew around 2,000 police and soldiers from over 16 square miles in southern and eastern Colombia, turning over control of that territory to the FARC “as a gesture of goodwill.” The FARC however did not comply with the peace accord efforts, and took advantage of the government by using the territory as a training ground for recruits and future actions.

In March of 2015, President Santos agreed to halt aerial bombing in recognition of a unilateral cease-fire called by FARC at Christmastime. However, he subsequently ordered air assaults to resume in response to a rebel attack that killed ten soldiers in April. Offensive operations then renewed as guerrillas began sabotaging roads, pipelines and utilities.

In September of last year, in what appeared to be another clear nexus to Venezuela’s support, guerrilla and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (also known as "Timochenko") arrived at Havana airport in a Beechcraft 1900 aircraft owned by Venezuela’s state owned oil company PDVSA.  President Santos and FARC leader “Timochenko” later described “a major breakthrough,” saying that they had agreed to “finalize a deal by March 2016.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called this "historic progress.”

The FARC have said they are willing to put down their arms, but “not hand them over to the state.” Today FARC leaders are continuing to insist on no jail time for their atrocities, and they want the right to run for political office if they are to demobilize and peacefully reintegrate. Yet they continuously and consistently refuse to disarm. Many FARC commanders are wanted on drug trafficking charges in the manufacture and smuggling of hundreds of tons of cocaine.

One of the U.S. targets is Timochenko, who flew into Cuba on the Venezuelan aircraft.  He has a bounty by the U.S. placed on him for US$5 million “for information leading to his arrest.” Extradition issues are not clear and not expected.

There also remains unclear issues of trials by special courts for crimes of the war, “from sexual abuse and kidnapping to torture and executions.”

Santos now believes the FARC should be eliminated from the terror list. He also said he would like the U.S. to “follow his lead in Colombia and suspend arrest warrants targeting the FARC's top leadership.”

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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