Oct. 5, 2014
The peace delegations of the Colombian government and the FARC ended their 29th cycle of talks on Friday, Oct. 3, and announced that they would initiate the 30th cycle on October 20. During the 29th cycle, as part of the discussions about how to address the issue of victims, the peace table received testimonies and proposals from a third delegation of victims. In a press statement on Oct. 3, Humberto de la Calle, the head of the Colombian government’s negotiating team, noted, “With yesterday’s visit, 36 men and women have now come to Havana. We want their stories to transcend drama and pain to be transformed into a vital element of the discussion of this point on the agenda. They are the center of gravity for this process.” (Read his statement here.)
The victims on the third delegation–Ximena Ochoa, Nancy Galárraga, Camilo Umaña, Victoria Liu, Luis Fernando Arias, Soraya Bayuelo, general Luis Mendieta, Aída Avella, Martha Amorocho, Emilce Hernández, Érika Paola Jiménez and Alan Jara–represented a wide range of experiences. (See my previous blog post here.) In the latest round of talks, according to De la Calle, the peace delegations heard from girls “whose childhood was stolen from them; mothers who never saw their children grow up or saw them grow up struggling with the grave consequences of an attack; women who saw how their sisters were subjected to the most atrocious acts of violence; children who today carry the pain caused by the kidnapping of their fathers.”
In his press statement, De la Calle noted that, “The disposition to assume responsibility is the basic condition for advancing in the construction of a legitimate model of transitional justice that satisfies the rights of the victims. Only this disposition will send society clear and honest indications that it is possible to put an end to the conflict. … The Government has done this…. The FARC must do it as well in the most categoric way. They should go beyond what we said when we approved the ten points for developing point 5 on Victims. They should make a clear pronouncement, without excuses.” (Read the full statement here.)
The Colombian press highlighted the polemic that emerged over the presence of general (r) Luis Herlindo Mendieta at the table, who was held in the jungle by the FARC for nearly a dozen year. (See “Así vivieron Mendieta y Alan Jara el cara a cara con las Farc.”) FARC negotiator “Andrés París” said he listened to the retired officer with respect, but insisted that Mendieta, because of his condition as a member of the Armed Forces, was a prisoner of war, rather than a victim. “We do not want to veto anyone. What we are asking for is a balance in participation. If a member of the Armed Forces, who was a prisoner of war, comes [to Havana], then we ask for a prisoner of war who is in the jails of Colombia [to come],” said “París”. (Read the discussion here.) Mendieta rejected the FARC’s position, noting that his treatment by the FARC violated international humanitarian law, and he called on the FARC to clarify the whereabouts of 120 police who have gone missing.
The victims were united by their pain and were unanimous in calling on the parties to hasten the end to the conflict, to declare a bilateral ceasefire and other “gestures of peace,” and to stay at the table until a final peace accord has been reached. Ex-presidential candidate Aída Avella spoke about the extermination of the Patriotic Union leaders, the threats they continue to face, and the need to create safer conditions for political participation. Alan Jara, governor of Meta, held for years by the FARC, called on the parties to open the process to greater participation from the regions where the conflict has been most intense. Luis Fernando Arias, senior advisor of the national indigenous organization, ONIC, called on the government and the FARC to receive a delegation at the peace table that represents indigenous communities.
View the Oct. 3 press conference given by the third delegation of victims at the conclusion of their meetings at the peace talks in Havana:
With the ongoing technical support and accompaniment of the National University, United Nations, and the Colombian Bishops Conference, a fourth delegation of victims will travel to Cuba at the end of the upcoming cycle, on Oct. 29th.
New Program Launched
On Sept. 30, the FARC-EP peace delegation announced the launch of a new video news program on the peace talks that will be aired every three days and will show the FARC’s vision of events in Havana. (View more about the initiative here.) “We hope this space for information will help break the grip on the press that the regime has imposed on Colombians because we need to know the truth,” noted Boris Guevara, co-host with Tanya Neimeyer (aka Alejandra Nariño), both of whom are members of the FARC-EP peace delegation. The show looks to be smart, professional, and well designed. Two programs have now been released. View the debut program here:
Uribe’s Efforts to Engage the FARC Revealed
Finally, in what may help to undercut Uribe’s criticisms of the peace talks or at least soften the sting, the Colombian press revealed that exPresident Alvaro Uribe had sought repeatedly to launch peace talks with the FARC-EP, had lined up options for the talks to take place in Brazil, and had engaged in direct talks with the ELN in Havana. (See “Los contactos secretos de Uribe con las FARC.”) Current Colombian government negotiator Frank Pearl, who was a peace commissioner under Uribe, confirmed that Uribe had authorized him to seek talks with the FARC. None of these are surprising revelations and most have long been in the public domain (see Maria Jimena Duzan’s piece back in April 2013). On Monday, President Juan Manuel Santos called on Uribe and his allies to join in the search for an end to the armed conflict in Colombia. “Instead of sabotaging and putting sticks in the wheels of the process, I invite them to sit together to see how we might work together. How good it would be that the entire country, regardless of party, would see to seek that peace.” (Read his statement here.) Giving Uribe credit for helping to establish the basis for the talks may be a smart move that could help bring the country together around the peace talks and ensure that a peace agreement is approved by the populace once the mechanisms for ratification are decided.
Clearly, President Santos is also seeking to firm up his support internationally as well, in anticipation of post-accord needs. Yesterday, Santos and President Barak Obama had a phone conversation in which Santos briefed Obama on the peace process and anticipated challenges. Obama “underscored continued strong U.S. support for the work done so far by the Colombian government to bring an end to the longest running conflict in the Americas and expressed U.S. readiness to work closely with Colombia during the post-conflict period.” (Read the full statement here.) Next month, Santos will travel to Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Lisbon and Berlin to meet with heads of state and to seek their support for the creation of a post-conflict fund that would be administered through the European Union.