Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Best Frenemies?

'There's already a path to resolve the crisis and renew the peace process,' announces today's El Tiempo.
A victory for the peace process?

'The people have the key to peace,' says a sign at a
demonstration today against the suspension of the peace talks.
Judging from today's press headlines, that's what this Sunday's kidnapping of a general by the FARC amounted to.

El Tiempo, Colombia's leading newspaper, headlined 'Advances in moves to achieve general's liberation.'

Remember that the FARC, who had promised to stop kidnapping, grabbed a general and his assistants while he traveled in civilian clothes without bodyguards no apparent hostile intent.

The FARC want find a fast
solution to the crisis they
caused themselves, they say.
But Colombia's  El Tiempo, historically owned by the family of Pres. Santos and an active backer of the peace talks, is not denouncing the guerrillas for breaking their promise or violating human rights abuses, but rather interprets the FARC's actions as an advance, as its subheadline today announced: 'The solution to the crisis could allow a deescalation of the conflict.' Perhaps the guerrillas should kidnap more military officials to advance the peace talks even further?

The contrast with the episode a few weeks ago when the guerrillas murdered several NASA indigenous guards for removing a banner which the guerrillas had hung on indigenous territory could hardly be greater.

That time, government officials denounced the killings, but continued talking peace with the FARC. This time, the government suspended negotiations, but seems to be trying to put a positive spin on the guerrillas' crime. Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre termed the kidnapping an 'improper retention' - using what is traditionally the guerrillas' own euphemism for kidnapping.

Pres. Santos won reelection primarily thanks to support for the peace talks, and he's determined not to let anything, even murder or kidnapping, derail them.

For their part, FARC leaders in Havana said they wanted to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and find "a fast, tranquil and just solution to this problem." Strange comments coming from the organization which caused the crisis in the first place and presumably could end it at any moment by freeing the general and other kidnappees.

Students on the National University campus in Bogotá
walk past a mural celebrating the FARC guerrillas.
But the contradiction between the guerrillas' actions and statements also suggests that the FARC leadership cannot control some of its 'fronts'. That's a worrisome reality for any post-peace treaty situation, in which some guerrilla units might defy their leaders and turn into straight-out narcotrafficking groups, as some ex-paramilitary groups have done.

This evening, the FARC promised to free the general, his two assistants and two other soldiers held by the guerrillas.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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