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Colombia: A Long Way to Peace?

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Colombian Armed Forces

Colombian Armed Forces. Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In the early hours of New Year’s Day, the Colombian Armed Forces launched [es] an air strike on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camp located near Chigorodó northwestern Colombia. The air strike was called after Elda Ramírez (aka ‘Mayerly’), considered a senior member of the FARC hierarchy, called a man who she believed was a drug dealer interested in buying cocaine. Instead, the dealer turned out to be an undercover police officer, and the consequent air attack claimed the lives of fourteen guerrilla fighters belonging to the FARC’s fifth front.

The air strike also occurred against the backdrop of negotiations between the FARC and Colombian government that have been ongoing since September 2012. To support the peace talks, the FARC announced a ceasefire on November 20. However, Colombia’s armed forces have continued military operations against the organization. On January 20, FARC announced that it had suspended the ceasefire and instead proposed a bilateral truce.

The Colombian government’s attack and the broken ceasefire [es] provoked a variety of response from Colombian bloggers. For instance, a blogger at Colombia Opina celebrated [es] the bombings and explains why the FARC’s fifth front was so dangerous:

El frente 5 de las Farc era una especie de escuela de formación de terroristas. Desde Efraín Guzmán hasta Iván Márquez, y desde la hoy desmovilizada “Karina” hasta el aún alzado en armas alias “Manteco”, han pasado por el 5° frente de las Farc, una estructura guerrillera vieja y belicosa que la madrugada del 31 de diciembre recibió otro golpe por parte de la Fuerza Aérea Colombiana en la “Operación Fortuna”: un bombardeo que dejó al menos 14 bandoleros muertos y devuelve la esperanza de seguridad necesaria a los habitantes de una zona estratégica como es el Eje Bananero, que además linda con el corredor que va desde la Serranía de Abibe y cruza siguiendo la ruta del Río Sucio hasta el Atrato Medio.

FARC's 5th front was some kind of school for terrorists. From Efraín Guzmán [es] to Iván Márquez, and to the now demobilized “Karina” to the still armed rebel [Jhover Man Sánchez Arroyave] aka “Manteco” have all belonged to [this front], an old, belligerent guerrilla structure, which in the early hours of December 31 received another blow by the Colombian Air Forces in ‘Operation Fortune', a bombing which left at least 14 rebels dead and brings back the hope for security of the inhabitants in the strategic area known as the Banana Axis, which borders a corridor of the Abibe Mountains and crosses through Riosucio river to the middle of Atrato river.

In contrast, Camilo Raigozo criticizes [es] President Santos’ ‘happiness’ with the killing of the guerrilla fighters:

El régimen que encabeza el presidente Santos se ha negado a parar la orgía de sangre y muerte que enluta al pueblo colombiano, al no aceptar una tregua bilateral del fuego, ni siquiera para navidad y año nuevo. La insaciable sed de sangre de quienes detentan el poder lo impide.

The regime headed by President Santos has refused to stop the bloody and deadly orgy which saddens the Colombian people, by not accepting a bilateral ceasefire, not even for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The insatiable bloodthirst of those in power prevents that.

Horacio Duque, on Tercera Información, wonders [es] if the unilateral ceasefire by FARC has worked:

Tal parece, por los datos que entregan los expertos que hacen un seguimiento detallado de los combates, que en los primeros 30 días el éxito ha sido rotundo. Se pasó de 190 combates y enfrentamientos mensuales a 26, 23 de los cuales tienen su origen en los grupos ajenas a los diálogos de Cuba. (…) Incluso las empresas petroleras y las que explotan minerales han reportado un ambiente de mucho menos hostilidad.

It seems, based on the data delivered by the experts who closely follow these combat operations, that in the first day the success [of the ceasefire] has been resounding. Combat operations and clashes went from 190 to 26 monthly, 23 of them with origin in groups not related to the talks in Cuba (…) Even oil and mining companies have reported a less hostile environment.

Fernando Dorado writes [es] about the convenience of extending the ceasefire:

De mantenerse o alargarse el período del cese de fuegos – más allá de la época navideña y festiva – la guerrilla de las FARC le estaría colocando toda la presión al gobierno de cara a concertar un cese de fuegos bilateral, lo que le daría mayor empuje al proceso de Paz.

If the ceasefire period is kept or extended, beyond the holiday season, FARC guerrillas would be putting all the pressure on the government in order to agree to a bilateral ceasefire, which would make the peace process more convincing.

It seems that the reluctance of the Colombian government to respect the FARC ceasefire is intended to weaken [es] the group both militarily and strategically. In doing so, Bogota anticipate that the FARC will have less space to make demands. during the peace talks. The effectiveness of this strategy will likely be determined over the course of 2013, especially as the November deadline for brokering a peace agreement approaches.

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

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