A worker repairs the damage to the presidential palace caused by a mortar launched during
the inauguration ceremony for President Alvaro Uribe, in Bogota, Colombia Friday Aug.
9, 2002. At least one shell hit the palace on Wednesday during the attack blamed on rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia, FARC. (AP Photo/John Moore)
A realistic proposal to resume the
Eleven days before the presidential
elections of May 26, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia – People’s Army declared in a public communiquй that:
“no matter who should be the next elected president, they were
willing to re-initiate the dialogues that had been abruptly
broken off by and under the direct responsibility of Dr.
The conditions this belligerent force demands are minimal,
1. “Clear out” (state authority) of the departments of
Caqueta and Putumayo;
2. Return to the agenda for change
towards the new Colombia that was being advanced with
3. Withdraw the labels “terrorists” and
“narcoterrorists” by which agents of the government try to
discredit those fighting for social causes; and
serious measures against those involved in any official
The proposal drove the candidates at that time, the
generals, representatives of the clergy, the business
establishment, political analysts, party officials and social
commentators crazy. But, what was it that provoked their angry
It seems they are greatly annoyed that the FARC-EP should
insist that as long as the government continues its policy of
dialogue under fire, they require sufficient guarantees to
maintain the security of their commanders, ambassadors and
personalities, and to offer the same security to the
government’s representatives assigned to advance the
conversations, and that these should necessarily be located
where the meetings take place.
They think the request for the two departments to be
“cleared” is disproportionate. Unacceptable. They go back to
the same arguments as when that request was made for the first
time during the Samper government, to “clear out”of the
municipality of Uribe in the department of Meta, and then more
recently for San Vicente, Uribe, Macarena, Vista Hermosa and
They are obsessed and spooked by the idea that the FARC-EP
might want to “balkanize” Colombia, imposing the imaginary
“Southern Republic” under the stale old thesis of Independent
Republics already utilized for the aggression against
Marquetalia in 1964.
A rebel trooper standing guard during the peace negotiations at Los Posos, Caqueta.
Photo Jason P.Howe, 2002.
They have not been able to swallow the fact that the
extermination or death blow the warmongers so hoped they would
inflict on the FARC in the Caguan, was but a vain illusion,
and that after almost four months of their military offensive,
undertaken on a big scale, it has been a complete failure for
them. The extension of the war to the entire national
territory, including the urban centers, is a situation that is
ever more a real possibility, that in midst of the armed
confrontation, draws a new map of the Colombian political
To stop the war there has to be dialogue and the temporary
“clearing”will open the gates to understanding without putting
the territorial integrity at risk which they claim worries
them so much.
They would like to see the FARC dialoguing out there
somewhere… in a far-off corner of the world or perhaps inside
some hot tents in an African desert oasis or in the frigid
north, but not here in Colombia, under the mantle of the
tropical jungle that witnessed their birth and protects them.
They forget that their demand is backed by undeniable evidence
of their political and military accomplishments. They lack the
largeness of mind to see that the most pressing problem in
Colombia is whether there will be war or peace. The condition
calling for an area to be “cleared”is a not a lot in view of
the threat that looms.
Nor will they be able to take away from what the FARC have
accomplished in their 38 years of work together with and as
part of the people with remarks made in bad taste or epithets
borrowed from their international mentors or certain state and
government functionaries. “We are a political-military
organization and insist on being treated as such. It is not a
lot to ask.”
The agenda for change for the new Colombia was one of the
great achievements of the truncated process and it deserves
being taken up anew and deepened. There are within it valuable
elements for reconciliation and the search for Peace with
As for the measures to be taken against official
paramilitarism, the Constitution and laws provide the elements
for rounding up its promoters, participants, financers,
propagandists and collaborators.
President Pastrana, the Prosecutor’s office and many
national and international organizations are familiar with the
long list of members of the armed forces, producers’
associations, political parties, “respectable” personalities,
mafiosos, landowners and cattle ranchers who have hitched
their fate to this death machine. It would be simple to
untangle its tentacles and punish the guilty parties if there
existed on the part of the Colombian State the political will
to do so. From their graves, those who were massacred accuse
and await justice.
Having emerged victorious from the electoral contest, Dr.
Álvaro Uribe Vélez has “thrown out” a new proposal to
reinitiate the dialogues with those he calls “the violent
ones”. We will speak more about it later. For the moment, we
insist, without arrogance, that the proposal of the
FARC-People’s Army is a serious, viable and realistic one.
Translation on English by: firstname.lastname@example.org