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farc_2372829bThe current peace talks between Colombia and the FARC guerrillas (even if successful) will not produce peace. But the talks still have some undeniable uses that are indispensable for Colombians to understand.

11 years after the bitter end to the peace negotiations with the narco-terrorist guerrilla known as the FARC (for their acronym in Spanish), Colombians are once again back at the negotiating table, only this time from a radically different position. Colombians have been emboldened by the past 10 years of conflict which has begun to go their way, thanks to the monumental efforts of former president Alvaro Uribe, and the current Juan Manuel Santos (Mr. Uribe’s former defense minister), to increase security, deliver political and military blows to the FARC, stretch the reach of the state to regions that never before had any presence. Colombians today are richer, safer, and happier than they were 11 years ago, with the tide of the war going their way. So why, many ask, should there be another peace process with the same old FARC who abused Colombians’ trust only a decade ago with empty promises of peace, especially when the FARC have proven weaker than expect and are on the run?

Why the peace process is necessary

First, the FARC are not defeated, just like any other guerrilla war before it, there is no chance for a final ‘Waterloo’ type of engagement where there is an outright final victory against it. The FARC remain well funded from the drug trade and extortion business. Colombians should dispel any notion that the FARC will be defeated by military means alone (at least not without some serious civil and human rights violations which Colombia should avoid).  This is not to say that the FARC cannot be defeated, just that it must be done by combining the military efforts with the diplomatic and political means that expose the moral bankruptcy of their philosophy to the world. If only from this vantage point, the peace talks already have its uses (albeit Machiavellian in nature).

The disintegration of the FARC and the mutation of the conflict.

The second and perhaps most interesting use of the talks is to shed light on a fact that many Colombians are yet to realize: the enemy they so detest in the FARC mutated, and with it, changed the dynamic of how ‘peace’ can be achieved.  First, consider the FARC, no longer a monolithic entity planning and plotting from inside Colombia, and carrying out massive deadly attacks on the civilian population. Their senior leadership (which sits at the negotiating table) is all living abroad and cannot come back to Colombia, where they could face annihilation in a probable skirmish with the Colombian army. The FARC’s former top field commanders like Raul Reyes, Mono Jojoy or Alfonso Cano, have all been killed in combat, or jailed. Their inexperienced and young replacements are hardly as committed to the cause, and in many cases haven’t even met any of the senior leadership, and do not always carry out orders. Therein lies the problem: does the senior leadership at the peace talks sitting in Cuba, truly speak for their men in the field who are running scared and whom they barely know? It is the belief of this Democracy Vanguard, that they do not, and there are plenty of examples that support this.Colombia_Rebels_03514

A pact in Cuba will not yield peace in Colombia

Colombians now find themselves in the most disturbing of paradoxes, where they have been successful in the battlefield against the FARC, but this success has made the FARC more difficult to handle. On the one hand you have communiqués and orders that come out of Cuba from the senior FARC leadership, but that are rarely reflected on the ground back in Colombia. For instance, the 2012 “unilateral Christmas cease-fire” announced by the FARC leadership in Cuba, was broken by their men back in Colombia no less than 26 times during the Christmas season. Furthermore, the ease of infiltration of the guerrilla by the army, the insubordination by many of the commanders in the field serve to show that there is serious break in the ranks at the FARC, (as was the case with Ivan Rios’ security chief, who teamed up with his comrades and killed Rios, turning themselves in to the army with Rios, severed hand as proof). The problem is that this split makes the situation in Cuba even more precarious, as the Colombian government negotiates with one enemy in Havana, but fights another in Colombia.  So is it worth negotiating in Cuba if the leadership there might not be the ones in charge of their troops back in Colombia? And, will an agreement in Cuba actually materialize in Colombia?

What does the FARC leadership wants from the talks?

It is unfathomable to believe that the senior leadership in Cuba is oblivious to the disconnect between what they say and think, and what their troops do on the ground, so what are they looking for in Cuba? Perhaps their proposals for a new constitutional assembly, senate seats, a TV channel and other sorts of guarantees, (which hardly reflect many of the realities on the ground), should serve as an indicator that their interest is to save themselves, protect their illegally acquired wealth, and have immunity from prosecution. None of these objectives has anything to do with peace. Thus, any agreement with the FARC leadership in Cuba will resemble more of a quick retirement for the leadership, but certainly not peace.

Such agreement will be very difficult for Colombians to swallow. But it might open the door to deal with the remaining FARC on the ground for what they have mutated into: gangs of armed criminals known in Colombia as BACRIM, with no political objective, other than enrichment via the drug trade, extortion and terrorism.  Thus, such agreement will strip these criminal bands of the cloak of political belligerence they currently have under the FARC banner.

So where is the peace?

Colombians should be under no illusions that they will see peace from the current talks. Many will be disappointed to realize that the peace process in its current form will only be another step in that apparently unreachable quest to secure a lasting peace.

However, if the current process serves to expose the split between the FARC’s leadership and its troops, the senior leadership’s self-interest, as well as shift the perception of the Colombian people and the international community to see the FARC as criminal gangs, and no longer armed revolutionaries, then perhaps the peace talks would have served a good purpose, even if not the intended one.

By: Luis F Jimenez





Barack+Obama+Campaigns+Mississippi+Ahead+State+6UBC3SH_P1UlAMERICA’S LESSON TO THE WORLD: Obama’s burden

Americans deserve credit, by electing Barack Obama they have shown the world what America stands for and that they truly are an exceptional nation. Unfortunately, in the process, Mr. Obama has been handed a burden he might not be able to overcome.

Whether you are conservative, liberal, independent, agnostic or simply apathetic, all must concede that Barack Obama’s victory on November 4th was nothing short of astonishing. Against all odds Obama single handedly defeated two of history’s most formidable electoral establishments: the Clintons and the Republican Party. In this respect Mr. Obama deserves all the credit he has received for successfully completing the task of winning a presidential election as an African American man. However, Mr. Obama’s truly difficult task begins once he inherits the Oval office. History will judge Mr. Obama not only for the outcome of his election but by the performance of his administration. And task ahead of the next president is daunting.

On November 4th, 2008 America reminded the world why it is the single most tolerant, democratic and free nation where anything is truly possible if someone is willing to fight for a dream. America has achieved ‘color-blindness’ thanks in no small part to its largely successful assimilation of its minorities into the mainstream society. While Europe seems to be drifting towards a worrying path of extremism, xenophobia and rejection of is immigrant population, be it legal or illegal. On the contrary, America has overwhelmingly elected a black president by the Muslim name of Barack Hussein Obama. This historic milestone has occurred at a time of economic crisis, while the country is engaged in two foreign wars, and yet Americans still chose this man as the leader of the free world. Needless to say the behavior of the two populations, European and American could not be any different.

Before Barack Obama, it was a virtually inconceivable concept that a person of an ethnic minority (particularly African American) could reach the country’s highest office. But Americans have once again shown the globe their capacity to lead, while also reminding us all that ‘American exceptionalism’ is very much alive. Americans have consistently demonstrated to the world, and to Europe in particular, that instead of marginalizing and discriminating their minorities, they must be treated as equal citizens and integrated into mainstream society. This has allowed for the capitalization of an immense pool of knowledge, diversity and innovation that these individuals bring to society. There is hardly a clearer example of the differences between America and Europe, when days after America elected its first African American president, German chancellor Angela Merkel called upon the German population to stop the xenophobia and fight against racism.

Obama’s task: treading carefully in uncharted waters


As we move forward to begin a new chapter in American history, is it important to fully understand before this new administration begins that Mr. Obama, just like any other president before him, will not be able to deliver on the majority of his idealistic campaign promises. Messiahs do not exist in politics and miracles seldom occur.  However, Mr. Obama’s task is even more daunting than any of his predecessors. He not only has to deal with the commonly understood challenges that any other candidate regardless of their political affiliation would have had to face (economic recession, wars, unemployment, illegal immigration, Iran etc), but Mr. Obama also carries with him a torch in the name of minorities worldwide, all of whom will be eagerly looking to him with high expectations. One of the greatest expectations of Mr. Obama will be to prove to the world that, race and ethnicity are no parameters by which to judge an individual or their capabilities to lead. Mr. Obama will be closely watched by his supporters as well as his enemies, and both will be quick to call him out on any display of weakness or failure to deliver on promises. Some overly eager supporters will inevitably be disappointed (perhaps they deserve to be), others will be impressed, but ultimately Mr. Obama holds the keys for any future president to be elected from a minority,

The racial test is still not quite over for America

Americans displayed an enviable level of higher thinking, by rising above the racial divisions of the past and to judge a man based on the arguments and policies that he presented. Nevertheless, just as any other democratically elected leader, Mr. Obama is not immune to failure, and history teaches us that even the mightiest of leaders can fail miserably (lest we forget the lesson of Richard Nixon who carried 49 states in the 1972 presidential elections, only to be forced to resign 2 years later). Americans must take measure of this fact if Mr. Obama’s presidency were to end in failure. Furthermore, Americans would be unwise and unjust, to have shown such high thinking by electing a man based on the content of his character, only to judge the outcome of his presidency on his ethnic background if he were to fail. Therein lays the final question for America’s racial test.

Fair or not, this is the heavy burden that Mr. Obama carries. Society will undoubtedly use his presidency to judge, possibly stigmatize and ultimately set the precedence for any ‘non-white’ person’s competence and ability to occupy the Oval office in the future. Democracy Vanguard recognizes Mr. Obama’s historic victory, albeit differing significantly with Mr. Obama’s views on the economy and foreign policy. However, we wish the president-elect well during his tenure, for the world requires a successful US president. However, it is for the abovementioned burden that Democracy Vanguard hopes that Mr. Obama exceeds our expectations. It would be unjust for America to revert back to raising racial or stereotypical barricades on the presidency based on the actions of Mr. Obama. There are very capable people in every minority and everyone should have an equal chance at the presidency. Just as the majority of Americans wish not be judged based upon the actions of George W. Bush, so too must they not judge minorities based on the unforeseen actions of Mr. Obama. Only time will tell how Americans judge the Obama administration, but we must all appeal to the same tolerant level of high thinking that brought them to elect the ‘post-racial’ president.


by: Luis F Jimenez

Edited: Michelle Rutt


Wall_StreetCapitalism in under attack, and the world is dangerously turning to protectionism and the state for answers. But before embarking on a capitalism-bashing spree, there must be 2 questions the taxpayer must ponder. First, what actually went wrong to end up in this mess? (was it capitalism itself?). Second, what was the response of our elected leaders, and regulators, in the face of the looming American election?

During the past month when we have seen and felt the worse of the worldwide financial meltdown, the world over has been keen to bash capitalism, free markets, financial systems and the so called “corporate greed”.  But very few have defended the system that have favored the consumers, enriched societies, reduced poverty, and permitted technological breakthroughs, and nations benefiting from bright ideas by taking risks and investing. Such bashing behavior is not only negligent after 30 years of growth, low inflation, low unemployment, and improvements on technology and healthcare, but it is also dangerous and irresponsible with future generations.

Corporate Goals vs. Corporate Responsibility

Let us begin by examining the first question: What went wrong? Many people like to blame the financial system that was too lightly regulated and allowed for corporate greed and banking profligacy, others blame the inherently heartless capitalist ethic, some would blame an increasingly irresponsible consumer who should be watched over. Clearly there is no lack of blame to go around, especially when so many people are losing money and it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill. However, none of the above mentioned causes alone are responsible for the mess, and more importantly, all of the so called “causes” miss the basic understanding of markets, economic freedom and corporate nature that is essential for finding a viable solution without turning our backs on the markets.

Corporations are created with the single purpose of creating wealth, cutting cost, and all of them are profit oriented, corporations are not in any way created to benefit any goals beyond those of their shareholders. It might sound egoistic, but it is the truth. However, what cannot be overlooked is that under fair competition amongst these entities in a free market, they serve to benefit the goals of societies as a whole and the consumers that they ultimately target. In the face of this current crisis it is hard to forget that these egoistic corporations have provided us all with global progress and created the wealth necessary to improve the lives of billions of people and continue to do so, and in this process they are neither free reigning or unchecked. Unless these firms are a monopoly, they are bound by the rules of the market and the government regulations; hence they can only react to the changes in market conditions imposed by consumers and regulators.

The current crisis has made it seem as if the financial institutions are not bound by the laws of the market, and they behaved as what so many in the media have called ‘masters of the universe’. This is simply not true, and for those people aching for more government action it would be wise to keep the following in mind: For the past decades where free markets have reigned, inflation has been kept at historically low levels, in most parts due to the lowering of trade barriers and sound macroeconomic policies. Thus, banking institutions starting with central banks they were awash with liquidity and were willing to lend at very low interest rates, making credit access more available to millions of people who had never had it before. Furthermore, there was a bi-partisan belief that an ownership society was in the best interests of any nation, and pushed strongly for the liberalization of credit, and led their citizens in the search for ways of joining the trend of ownership (both in home and other kinds of assets).

In the abovementioned scenario, financial institutions reacted to market conditions and pressures just as any other corporation in any other industry would have. Moreover, this particular industry, whose purpose is to raise and allocate capital where it is more productive, found itself awash with liquidity, pressed by eager borrowers and high profit margins, so it was merely natural that it would push for the highest profit maximizing investment available. Of course there is no such thing as a risk free investment, just as there is hardly any competitive industrial sector that is static and remains in the search for better tools to become more competitive and modern. The banking industry was no different, and for an industry that thrives in taking big risks and reaping big rewards, innovation would more than likely be focused on reducing the risk while sustaining profit margins. Thus, the sector came up with the ever-growing Credit Default Swaps (CDS) to do away with risk for any investor willing to buy it for a margin of profit. This in turn gave way to the so call ‘sub-prime’ market where non-prime lenders could be targeted, as risk was no longer a pressing issue.

What is important to see is that in one of the most heavily regulated sectors of the American and world economy as is the mortgage sector, it would be unfair to blame financial corporations for reacting to market conditions which have been set for them, (in most cases by the regulators themselves), and then ask for further regulation as if the capital markets were at fault. Any CEO, even the most conservative ones saw an opportunity for business and would have otherwise been sacked by their shareholders if they failed to capitalize on double digit profit margins by appearing circumspect. Furthermore, it is shortsighted to accuse corporate executives of carelessly mishandling shareholder’s capital, since many of these executives, board members, and bankers are paid in the same company shares that they work for, as was the case with Lehman Brothers.

The financial rescue, and playing politics with panic

shopLet it be clear that this article does not intend to excuse corporate behavior when it was taking risks that were clearly outside of their capacity to sustain. Democracy Vanguard, a believer in economic freedom, shares the global outrage at the fact that taxpayers are asked to rescue the fat cats of the financial sector. But there are times that ideology must give way to pragmatism and we must understand that it is in the world’s best interests that the financial sector is not allowed to collapse. That said, the current wave of leaders unfriendly to the capitalist system, wishing to vindicate themselves with the electorate, and use the crisis for political gains is shameful, and will eventually lead us in the wrong direction. This brings us to the second question: What was the response of our elected leaders, and how did they present it to us in the framework of the current political landscape?

The response of policymakers from Washington to London, to Paris, to Beijing has been decisive, reasonably well coordinated, and brisk. This is paramount to avoid the mistakes of 1929, and policymakers deserve credit for that. However it is also a testament of the complex and integrated worldwide financial system that has been created, where the mortgage payment defaults of a man in Portland, Oregon can affect the credit available for a small business owner in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

However, the same leaders who have acted quickly have also had their own political agenda as a guideline (perhaps unavoidably). In France and Germany, advocates of big government, like President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck, have almost gloatingly spoken of the “end of capitalism”, and have had no reservations to quote Karl Marx in an attempt to legitimize further government intervention in their already heavily regulated markets.

In the United States, the nature of the election year has served to further politicize any response to the crisis and has mostly served to boost the Democrats and their presidential nominee Barack Obama, making him almost unbeatable in November, and ensuring an increase in congressional majorities. With the current public anxiety that exists and fears of recession, Democrats have capitalized in the polls and moved forward to push for regulation and intervention that can eventually backfire. Amongst these regulations are populist-rallying calls such as corporate pay caps; a system which serves no purpose other than politically motivated ones.

While it is important to have the right regulation, the world must not be driven by impulse, or populism to over-regulate. Placing caps on corporate pay or compensation for example is not only not part of the solution to the current crisis; it is irresponsible and populist. In the current so-called “global competition for talent” where companies offer the best perks to attract the best and the brightest, placing caps on a company’s ability to attract the highly qualified people that they need, puts them at a competitive disadvantage in front the rest of the world. In turn, such a policy motivates corporations to shift headquarters elsewhere. Clearly such proposals are political in nature and not financial, an appeal to bi-partisanship must be made and these populist tactics must stop, to avoid hindering the future of the world economy and drive nations away from the free markets, from which they have benefited so much in the past.

Capitalism isn’t broken, but needs some fine-tuning

To allow a new era of big government, state intervention in the markets, protectionism and restrain on risk taking would be dangerous and hurtful for the globe. For those who currently parade themselves across the political arena, gaining supporters, triumphantly claiming the end of Anglo-Saxon capitalism and a return of dirigisme, their gloating mood should put us all on our toes. Capitalism is far from finished, and pandering to populist discourse is just as dangerous as a panic in the stock markets. We must identify that in this time of crisis we cannot shy away from centuries of market-oriented reforms and economic freedom.

Before turning to the populists for answers, first we need to understand what solutions and tools are available. The two most pressing problems before starting to regulate and rewrite the law are ones of liquidity, and investor confidence in the market. If there is no liquidity the crunch will continue and viable investments will go unmade as investors scramble for cash. But liquidity should not only come from the taxpayers, now that inflation fears have subsided across the globe, it is important for the central banks to lower interest rates and place more capital available for banks. The rules for financial rescues on toxic assets must have a clear objective of eventually selling back those assets, and those banks that are nationalized must be re-sold at the earliest opportunity without exception.

The second pressing issue of confidence in the markets will not be easily solved, and will require time. But politicians should be responsible and end their political bigotry and cease to see the panic as a solution to their political problems. Markets have all historically bounced back, and there is little reason to believe that the financial sector will be in the wilderness forever.

The world is not for turning

Just as Margaret Thatcher told her constituency in 1980 standing up for economic freedom that ‘the lady is not for turning’, so must all ‘free-marketeers’ stand up for the markets now more than ever as they are coming under attack from so many fronts. Protectionism and government regulations are on the rise in the most important bastions of free trade, from America, to Britain to Hong Kong. Governments across industrialized nations are intervening in the markets, albeit some times to save them, they must realize that no government regulation, no matter how well intentioned has ever proven to be more beneficial to the world economy than laissez-fair and free trade. Government action at this time of crisis is certainly needed but must be overturned in favor of the free markets at the earliest opportunity when the situation improves. Moreover, no government action should be taken at the expense of discouraging risk taking by investors.

Risk and reward go hand in hand and is the driving force for innovation in any economy. It is the ability of free nations to seek new ideas and invest in them by taking risks and reaping the rewards, which is what keeps the free world always on the move, always improving. It would be unwise to believe that a risk averse investor is best simply because some believe that the rewards are somehow “too large”. Fears of financial or housing bubbles should not be a reason to avoid them altogether for several reasons: first, bubbles are not inherently bad, they help allocate tremendous amounts of capital into sectors that are very productive, generating immense wealth and many times fostering new ideas and inventions that spill over into other sectors. Second, bubbles are virtually impossible to pinpoint, and it is impossible to determine when a particular sector is becoming one, or when it has peaked. In the current housing market bubble, everyone can agree that the bubble has burst, but hardly any two experts would agree as to when the bubble began, or when it reached its zenith.

It’s an intersection not a dead end

Capitalist nations find themselves now at the intersection between choosing to retreat from the markets and favor the protectionist policies that hindered world growth in the past and bankrupted their treasuries, or the harder yet correct choice, to take firm action to muddle through the crisis, without turning their backs on free trade, open markets, and private investment.

History teaches us that freedom somehow always manages to find itself under attack often and for many reasons. We are being offered a unique opportunity, because in this moment, every generation is being called upon to rise up and defend freedom. Every generation faces different challenges when defending their freedom, fortunately the pressing issue of this generation is not the defense of their political freedom. The pressing task that this generation is faced with is the defense of economic and financial freedom, and it is just as important and worthy as any other civil liberty. Fortunately, this time we are equipped with major advantages and tools to make this defense easier to develop. However, any effective defense requires the same determination displayed by free peoples in the past to stand up and take action. Our generation was born and has prospered from the economic freedoms that were handed over to us by honorable defenders of market-oriented policies, such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and even Deng Xiaoping. There is no finer tribute to these leaders, or more responsible action and example for the next generation, than to take up arms (in the philosophical term of course), and defend our precious economic freedom.


June 9, 2009


HouseCommonsPA_468x278DEMOCRACY VANGUARD aims to provide a sensible opinion on world affairs and provide a discussion forum, open to everyone and welcoming constructive discussion.

DEMOCRACY VANGUARD is an appeal to world citizens and freedom loving peoples across the planet, in an effort to protect, encourage and promote the democratic values that allow for freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of religion to be exercised.

The guiding principles that DEMOCRACY VANGUARD stands for are the following:

Democracy, Freedom and Individual rights and responsibilities:
1. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD sustains the underlying belief that democracy is the only and finest way to preserve individual freedoms and liberties.

2. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD believes in the liberties and freedoms of every individual, and appeals to the social, civic and ethical responsibilities that freedom and liberty demand from those that enjoy them.

Economy and fiscal policy:
3. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD believes in a small, fiscally conservative government, where individual choice, entrepreneurship, citizen empowerment, and individual initiative prevail over government intervention, government spending, and government regulation. DEMOCRACY VANGARD appeals to constraints on government spending, a balanced budget, and lower taxes.

4. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD believes in the benefits of Free Trade, and appeals to the lowering of trade and non-trade barriers, for the free exchange of goods, services and labor across nations. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD favors free markets, and fair economic competition across industries and nations, in its ultimate goal of benefiting consumers, expanding consumer choice, and making economies more efficient as a whole.

Defense and foreign policy:
5. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD appeals to the world for a strong defense policy, and strong well-equipped standing armies, ready to be called upon at a moment’s notice to defend individual freedoms and human life wherever it might be threatened.

6. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD believes in the need for intervention and sanctions against any nation that threatens the democratic values that are expressed in this mission statement. Furthermore, DEMOCRACY VANGUARD believes in the right and duty of democratic nations to disenfranchise and remove, by any means necessary, any government that threatens the survival of all or part of the civilian population inside the territorial sovereignty over which such governments may preside.

7. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD believes in a multilateral approach to global issues and the use of international organization to this effect. However, DEMOCRACY VANGUARD insists in the need for a faster protocol to be followed by multilateral organizations to deal with immediate and pressing crises that may arise across the globe.

8. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD strongly believes in the duty and right of democratic nations to override the mandates of international institutions at a time of crisis in the hopes of protecting the aforementioned democratic principles, individual freedoms and civilian lives. This appeal arises from the current delays that exist during crisis management by international institutions, and rogue state’s ability to subject international institutions to blackmail, bureaucratic infighting, and coercing member states into submission.

9. DEMOCRACY VANGUARD believes in the need for democratic nations to intervene with all necessary means, including preemptive action if necessary, against any nation that contributes directly or indirectly to the destabilization of any region, or any nation that threatens peace or human life in any part of the globe.