by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz
Colombia, the closest Western ally in South America, has been waging a war for half a century against narco-terrorist group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Previous president Alvaro Uribe brought the FARC to its knees. Current president Juan Manuel Santos began peace negotiations with the FARC in Havana, Cuba, in November 2013. Throughout the negotiation period, the FARC have continued their criminal activities, attacking the Colombian army, killing military and civilians, kidnapping an American, and sheltering international terrorists, as
the FARC continues to control swathes of territory and mount attacks on army patrol and oil pipelines.
Now Santos is running for re-election, after having promised the FARC’s unelected guerrilla leaders seats in Congress
Voters would pass a referendum containing unpopular measures such as the transformation of the FARC into a political party and special treatment in the justice system for crimes committed by guerrillas, as part of a package that ends half a century of bloodshed, Santos said.
In addition to Santos’s sweet deal deal, FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez, a.k.a. Timochenko, in a rambling video celebrating the FARC’s 50th anniversary (video in Spanish), asked for the abolishment of the Colombian military. Essentially, this would place the the closest Western ally in South America in the hands of the terrorist group, their ‘dream of effective peace.’
On Sunday’s election, opposition candidate and
former finance minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga finished atop the five-candidate field with 29 percent, setting up a June 15 runoff with Santos, who was second at 26 percent.
The president launched the talks in 2011. He says he is committed to a settlement with the narcoterrorists that will end the conflict while delivering justice to their victims. But the rebels publicly insist they won’t spend even one day in jail. Many Colombians don’t trust a deal between thugs and a president who seems too eager to get a deal. They prefer Mr. Zuluaga’s emphasis on security. He believes the only way to end the violence is to defeat the enemy militarily.
From the start of his campaign, Zuluaga has said that he will only continue talks with the FARC if the rebels “cease all criminal actions against Colombians.”
Experts agree that Zuluaga would jack up miltary and police operations against rebel groups across Colombia, as he would likley not be involved in negotiations with the guerrillas. This would lead to greater confrontations with armed groups, but possibly would increase security for people who work in the countryside, who are most subject to kidnappings and extortion at the hand of the guerrillas.
Since neither Santos nor Zuluaga were able to get more than 50 percent for victory, there will be a runoff election on June 15.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.