State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia, 1986-1994

By Harvey F. Kline | Go to book overview

3
Barco's Guerrilla Policy

The focus of this chapter is on the policies of the Virgilio Barco government for ending conflict with the guerrilla groups. I will demonstrate that the government took a more active role in its last two years, with some notable successes.

It was surprising that President Barco announced no new initiative for dealing with the guerrilla problem at his inauguration on August 7, 1986, because at the time, although there were approximately five thousand guerrillas of the FARC in a truce with the government, there were still another two thousand not observing a truce. The latter came from the Ricardo Franco Group and the CNG (Coordinadora Nacional Guerrillera, National Guerrilla Coordinator) made up of the M-19, EPL, ELN, and Quintín Lame.1 Further, a report of the minister of defense had given the following figures for guerrilla-related deaths from May 1985 through May 1986: guerrillas, 764; military, 384; and civilians, 670. Leaders of the Unión Patriótica ( UP [Patriotic Union], the legal political party formed by the FARC during the Betancur democratic opening) added that about three hundred of its militants had been killed by death squads during the same period.2

This situation was surely less serious than that faced by the Betancur government four years previously, even with all of those deaths. At that time there had perhaps been as many as seventeen thousand individuals in fifty-five guerrilla fronts in the country. John Agudelo Rios, president of Betancur's Peace Commission, concluded that the policies of the Betancur government led to the end of 95 percent of the guerrilla activities. This was done despite the problems he had faced as president of the Peace Commission, including the lack of support of

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