Peace in Colombia? Lessons from the failed 1999-2002 talks

I have a new article online at the excellent page Latin America Goes Global. There is an excerpt below, but you can read the whole thing at the link above.


December 16, 2015

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has wagered his legacy on the possibility of peace. He is not the first Colombian leader to do so, but Tuesday’s announcement of an agreement on restitution for the conflict’s victims, following a late September announcement of an agreement on transitional justice, has made it clear that the ongoing talks are making greater headway than ever before.

Santos’ immediate predecessor, Álvaro Uribe, made a very different bet on how to end the country’s five-decade internal conflict. Uribe wielded the military, much improved by U.S. hardware, training and intelligence cooperation, in pursuit of unconditional victory against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Uribe beefed up and deployed the coercive institutions of the Colombian state to improve the government’s position on the battlefield and re-establish state authority—though according to his critics often in collaboration with paramilitaries and at the cost of respect for human rights, according to Uribe’s critics.

There’s no doubt—despite their current personal spat—that Santos’ peace initiatives build on the success Uribe’s war against FARC. But the Colombian president would do well to look back to the administration of President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) who preceded Uribe. Like Santos, Pastrana gambled on a negotiated peace with the FARC. His effort was personal—before his swearing in, he traveled to FARC-held territory to meet the guerrilla leader. While Pastrana’s peace efforts coincided with poor military performance and popular demands for an end to the fighting, it also grew from the leader’s own hope to chart a new path for his country’s political and economic future.

Keep reading at Latin America Goes Global!

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