There is causefor very cautious optimism for once in Colombia’s forty year armed conflict.
After four years of rejecting a negotiated solution to the conflict, Colombia’s President Uribe has finally agreed to early talks with the leftist Guerrillas the FARC.
There will first be a “humanitarian agreement” or exchange of prisoners. Where this has happened in the past, injured, sick or old FARC prisoners have been exchanged for captured soldiers. It is very likely that the Government will push for the FARC to release some of their prized possessions such as captured presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, or the three “military contractors” rumoured to be CIA operatives who were captured in the jungle.
The humanitarian agreement has become all the more interesting as Uribe has agreed to further negotiations following the exchange that could lead to a final peace.
There are still many obstacles though. Firstly the FARC would like to see their guerrillas provide security for their negotiators and the Government have rejected that saying that they would like to see no military presence in the area. That would be almost impossible to agree for the FARC as it would allow paramilitaries to target their senior commanders.
The paramilitaries themselves are another problem. They too have their own peace process, but the whole thing is a sham. There are hundreds if not thousands of cases of paramilitaries who are supposedly demobilised or “reinserted” into society, just going on and setting up new paramilitary groups or private security companies to continue carrying out their atrocities.
When the FARC last went on ceasefire in the early 80s, the party it helped set up was wiped off the face of the earth. Over 4,000 members of the Patriotic Union were executed. They will be very cautious about doing the same again.