Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Prospects for Peace: Negotiations with FARC: An Interview with Alexandra Narino

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Prospects for Peace: Negotiations with FARC: An Interview with Alexandra Narino

Article excerpt

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is a left-wing guerilla group that, since its inception in the mid-1960s shortly after the start of the country's pernicious civil conflict, has grown to become one of the most influential armed groups in Colombia's struggle. As the conflict dragged on, paramilitary groups organized to combat some of the left-wing groups that were grabbing land and terrorizing the countryside with violent tactics. This has made the conflict more complex and difficult to resolve, despite the fact that one main paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), was largely demobilized by 2006. Today, the effects of the conflict have taken a toll on the country's society. For instance, Colombia has the second-largest number of internally displaced persons, after Syria, because of its ongoing internal struggles. Peace talks have taken place on and off unsuccessfully over the years, but in 2012 FARC representatives and President Juan Manuel Santos returned to the negotiating table, this time in Flavana, Cuba. The prospect of a revised political solution attracted both actors to the negotiating table. Indeed, President Santos' re-election in June 2014 largely hinged on his ongoing commitment to the peace process. Tanja Nijmeijer, alias Alexandra Narino, of the FARC peace delegation answered questions about the ongoing peace negotiations from Havana. (1)

Journal of International Affairs: What prompted the FARC's return to the peace process?

Alexandra Narino: One of the cornerstones of the FARC People's Army's (FARC-EP) plan, since its foundation, has been to find a political solution to the social and armed conflict in Colombia. (2) At any moment the political elites mention the word "dialogue," we are ready to start peace talks. The state of being in dialogue or being at war has never depended on the insurgency. Whenever the government asks for dialogue, we participate. Whenever they decide to continue war, we defend ourselves. Our doors are always open to dialogue, for we have never wanted this war; not when it started, and not now.

Journal: How have things during this round been different from the failed 1999 to 2002 talks?

Narino: One of the biggest differences between the so-called Caguan dialogues and the current Havana peace process is the shift that Latin American people have been able to give to the policies of several countries in the region. This has resulted, for example, in the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)--and in the establishment of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). (3) This makes it possible to think of an impartial oversight of the implementation of the eventual peace treaty. It also allows a balanced accompaniment to the peace process.

Another difference is that in-between the first and second peace processes, the neoliberal aggression against the people of Colombia has intensified. The policies of reprimarization (a refocus on primary commodities), financialization, and the plundering of natural resources by transnational companies have increased inequality and poverty. (4) Besides, the war against the insurgency has increased, too, with Plan Colombia and Plan Patriota, the latter of which was carried out by former President Alvaro Uribe Velez. (5) This fueling of the dirty war by the state and its paramilitaries has produced more false positive killings, disappearances, massacres, and thousands of political prisoners.

On the one hand, this has led to an apparent decline of leftist political groups, while at the same time it has produced a clear re-empowerment of the social movements making their political and social demands. It has also resulted in the consolidation and radicalization of leftist fighters who are still alive, both among the armed and the demobilized groups. The conclusion to which the government might have come is that it would not be able to physically exterminate all the progressive sectors of the country. …

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