The 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.
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