For a negotiated peace in Colombia

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Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba urged that a friendly group of countries come together in order to achieve a humanitarian agreement and a negotiated solution to the Colombian conflict during one of the panels of the Third People’s Summit “Linking Alternatives” taking place in Lima from May 13th to 16th.

The contribution of political parties to the peace process in Colombia was the theme of the seminar organized by the San Pablo Forum (which brings together Latin American groups on the left) as well as the Party of the European Left (PIE). The event included the participation of the following leftist political, social and parliamentary leaders from the two regions: Gloria Florez from the Alternative Democratic Pole of Colombia; Feliciano Valencia, indigenous leader from the Department of Cauca, Colombia; Roberto Conde, Uruguayan and Vice-President of the Parliament of MERCOSUR, Obet Ament of the French Communist Party; Valder Poma, Brazilian and Secretary for International Relations from the Workers Party; Vidal Cisneros, Venezuelan parliamentarian; Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba, and Helmut Markjon from PIE.

A negotiated solution

Several panel participants concurred that the Colombian conflict has been regionalized from point at which the United States intervenes - financing Plan Colombia and providing military assistance – to the government of Alvaro Uribe ordering attacks on a FARC base in Ecuadorian territory violating agreements between the two countries.

For the Uruguayan parliamentarian, Roberto Conde, "the brutal aggression that has been perpetrated against Ecuador is neither accidental nor capricious; it is a direct attempt to destabilize to the government of Rafael Correa."

He urged, therefore, that a negotiated solution to the conflict be sought. Valder Poma says: "We stand for a negotiated peace in Colombia. We understand that the conflict has longstanding social, historical, and political roots, which none of the parties can overcome militarily. As a result, perpetuation of the war does not offer a solution to the conflict. Today, the most interested party in continuation of the war is, in first place, the United States which with the war has a pretext for military presence in this region, and, secondly, the government of Uribe, because it receives resources through Plan Colombia and Plan Patriot, etc. on the one hand and because on the other hand the war gives it a political argument to instill fear and to justify its position.”

The leader from the Colombian left, Gloria Florez, pointed out that "a resolution to the armed conflict in Colombia today is an essential task for social movements across the continent together with our allies in Europe and the United States. The Colombian conflict has to be seen from a geopolitical point of view. The location of Colombia as an entryway to South America and adjoined to Central America and the Caribbean, with access to both oceans, is fundamental to the advance of any integration process in Latin America that will provide a counterbalance to the hegemony of the United States. This is also a challenge in order to maintain and ensure the stability of democratic processes of the left and of transformation taking place on the continent. If there is something destabilizing in our region today, it is the Colombia armed conflict, this is the excuse for North American military intervention and for the placement of bases in strategic areas such as the Amazon, as well as along the borders with Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama.”

Parliamentarian Roberto Conde added: "We need to know how to respond to these destabilizing policies with a policy of peace and development, but also with a policy of security. The hour has come when the countries of South America must begin to debate the necessary policies that will advance a common concept of security for the defense of the sovereignty of our continent.”


Addressing the structural causes that have prolonged the Colombian conflict, Gloria Florez indicates that these are related to political exclusion, physical elimination of the opposition and the appropriation of political power by violent means. Another element is the violent appropriation of land on the part of regional political and economic powers that has displaced millions of indigenous, afro-Colombians and peasant farmers, concentrating it in a few hands.

Amongst the obstacles for a negotiated solution, Florez mentions Plan Colombia which now, in phase two, is taking on a more sophisticated approach. It has as a goal the territorial control of strategic areas such as the Amazon and is accompanied by a propagandistic attack that tries to link social movements and progressive governments with "the terrorist threat of the FARC." The second obstacle is the twists and turns in Bush’s policy toward the war on terrorism. Initially Plan Colombia was linked with the war against drugs, however, following September 11th 2001 the essence of Plan Colombia was set aside for what is now referred to as an anti-terrorist and anti-drug plan. This has political and legal consequences, because different legislation applies. Whereas in Colombia, political rights/laws were once recognized (rebellion, sedition and riot), now the guerrillas are no longer treated as political opponents or as an insurgency group; rather, they are seen as terrorists. Sharing the logic of Bush, Uribe Vélez does not recognize the armed Colombian conflict, but rather says that there is a terrorist problem that must be attacked.

At the same time, Uribe is criminalizing social movements. Feliciano Valencia, leader of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) states: "The situation of indigenous peoples is very complicated given that our territories have become a stage for warfare and armed confrontation, given that there is a strong targeting by state institutions, the government and the President of the Republic. There is persecution by military high commands that have indicated that the indigenous movement in the north of Cauca, and the mayors there have links with the FARC guerrillas. In the same way, the governor of the department maintains that efforts to recuperate Mother Earth are motivated by the FARC guerrilla, and recently President Uribe, before a Community Council in the City of Popayán, authorized troops to report indigenous leaders for which they will receive compensation in exchange. This means in effect that the policy of democratic security is applied to indigenous peoples by linking us to the FARC. The aim is to not fulfill agreements signed by this government, to weaken indigenous movement organizations and to pave the way so that multinationals can enter and exploit mineral, hydrological and forest resources."

A view from Europe

From the perspective of the leader from the French left, Obey Ament, in France there is an image of Colombia distorted by the press. Colombia appears to be a country dominated by drug trafficking and violence and the most prominent news in France is that of the kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt. However, this obscures other problems, such as displaced people, the systematic violation of human rights, and the assassination of unionists. Despite this distortion, lately the lack of will on the part of the Colombian government to advance negotiations for the liberation of hostages has been evident.

"It is very disturbing to me how a culture of violence has been put in place in this country and it is a problem that will need to be addressed once they bring an end to the conflict; the massacre of the Patriotic Union, the failure of negotiations with Pastrana, the extreme and beastly violence of paramilitaries and the use of kidnapping by the guerrilla. As part of a revolutionary group, they have also contributed to creating this atmosphere of widespread violence. Adding to this years of corruption and links with drug trafficking amongst the political class, this also means that there are billions and billions of dollars at stake, which is something leading to more than just a gangrene, but rather a cancer in the society, that is part of the problem it is facing. I believe that it is this blockade today that has pushed the guerrilla to prefer militaristic strategies, because they are cornered without any other way out, but it is a military strategy for a problem with only a political solution," says Obey Ament.

Freedom for hostages

Several participants questioned the methods used by the FARC and insisted in the unilateral release of all civilians that they hold within their power. Valder Poma declared: "We must make sure that the FARC receives a very clear message: first that they remain open to negotiation and liberate those detained; second that they adopt a revolutionary attitude to recognize that they are committing very serious errors. I want to speak very carefully here: it is not correct to kidnap civilians and to hold them hostage for years. I ask, what revolutionary organization did this and has obtained good outcomes, there is none. It is an error of the FARC. For the relatives of the hostages and the image of the left it is necessary that the FARC see that this is the way to isolation and defeat, as a result of which it would be very useful for them to unilaterally free all of those who are detained, who are civilians."

For her part, the leader from the Alternative Democratic Pole, Gloria Florez, pointed out: "If there is something that has affected the credibility and the legitimacy of the FARC it is to maintain people in captivity under completely cruel conditions for more than six, seven years." Although she indicates that certain gestures must also be recognized, such as the liberation of some of those kidnapped.
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