FARC Rebels Declare End to Kidnappings as Prelude to Peace Talks
By Dialogo March 01, 2012
BOGOTÁ — In an apparent breakthrough that could open the door to peace talks with the government, Colombia’s FARC rebels announced Feb. 26 that they would no longer kidnap civilians for ransom. They also vowed to release the last of 10 captured soldiers, some of whom have been held in the jungle for 13 years.
President Juan Manuel Santos has insisted that the FARC stop the practice of kidnapping and other acts of terrorism if the group wants to begin peace talks with his government. Thus, the FARC’s announcement was widely interpreted as a first step towards formal talks, which would be the first in a decade aimed at ending the 48-year-old war.
“A lot has been said about the retention of civilians by the FARC for financial gain,” the rebel organization said in a communiqué posted on its website. “We announce that from this date forward we are banning this practice.”
The FARC added that after decades of war, “we believe there should be no more excuses to put off holding conversations.” Since it first rose up against the government in 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has abducted thousands of civilians. At one point, rebel commandos were kidnapping more than 1,000 people annually. Thus the declaration was greeted, in some quarters, with both optimism and relief.
An editorial in the Bogotá daily El Tiempo, the country’s most important newspaper, called the FARC statement “transcendental.” Former President Ernesto Samper called it “historic.”
Former hostage Betancourt says she’s ‘hopeful’
Meanwhile, former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was held along with 14 other captives — including three U.S. military contractors — for six years by the FARC before they were rescued by the Colombian Army in 2008, said: “I am hopeful. The announcement signals a change in strategy for the FARC.” Rather than war, she said “it looks like politics is now at the top of their agenda.”
But for every expression of hope and optimism, there were skeptics who claimed that the FARC had taken a cynical half-step geared for public relations purposes rather than a fundamental change in behavior.
“The government must not let its guard down,” said Juan Lozano, president of the ruling U Party. “Any softening up of the government’s strategy to combat this terrorist organization would be a monumental error.”
Lozano and other politicians pointed out that the FARC still holds scores of civilian hostages and has made no mention of their fate. “The FARC announcement is incomplete,” said Luís Eladio Pérez, a former hostage who spent time in captivity with Betancourt and the three U.S. contractors. “The FARC has not said anything about hundreds of their victims.”
What’s more, the FARC apparently plans to continue abducting police and army troops in an effort to exchange them for imprisoned guerrillas. As a result, Camilo Gómez, who was the main government negotiator during the last round of talks, called on the FARC for more coherence.
“You can’t go half-way,” Gomez said. “Either you stop kidnapping people or you don’t.” Santos was also voiced caution on his Twitter account. “We value the announcement by the FARC to stop kidnapping as an important and necessary step,” Santos tweeted. “But it’s not enough.”
Economics behind FARC decision to suspend kidnappings
The FARC’s motives are a long way from altruistic. Analysts said the rebel group is likely moving away from kidnapping not because it’s considered by the international community to be a crime against humanity, but because abductions are becoming more trouble than they’re worth.
A Colombian Army offensive, launched in 2002, has wrested back much territory from the FARC, led to the killing or capture of dozens of high-ranking guerrilla commanders, disrupted communications and has reduced the rebel organization’s numbers from 16,000 foot soldiers to about 8,000. That’s made it far more difficult for FARC units to snatch and hold hostages.
By some estimates, the FARC must assign up to five guards for every prisoner. Moreover, the rebels must provide them with shelter, food and healthcare and, amid Army operations, quickly move them through difficult jungle and mountain terrain in order to keep them alive while ransom negotiations proceed.
If the weakened FARC wants to break out of its military and political isolation through peace talks, said Bogotá security analyst Alfredo Rangel, it must first cleanse its image by renouncing the practice of kidnapping civilians.
“Obviously, it’s urgent for the FARC to start formal peace talks to obtain political benefits,” Rangel said. “Just the fact of sitting down to negotiate is an advance for the FARC given their current isolation and the condemnation of the national and international communities.”
FARC steps up extortion, drug trafficking activities
As a result, the FARC may be finding it easier these days to earn money from other sources.
The guerrillas have long been active in the illegal drug trade. They’re also stepping up their extortion schemes by blackmailing businesses for monthly payments, known as vacunas, or vaccinations, because they prevent the victim from suffering the even worse fate of being kidnapped.
Amid Colombia’s oil and mining bonanza, the FARC has found many new targets. Oil companies, in particular, are being targeted in southern Caqueta department. Police officials believe that a recent spate of rebel bombings targeting oil tankers and infrastructure in southern Colombia — as well as last year’s kidnapping of three Chinese oil workers and their translator came in retaliation for the refusal of petroleum companies to continue handing over extortion payments.
Eduardo Pizarro, who has written several books about the FARC, said the organization also earns huge sums from the gold-mining industry by forcing small-time prospectors in areas where the guerrillas operate into handing over a share of their earnings.
Even so, the FARC’s new policy on kidnapping could open some doors with the Santos government.
The FARC appears to have adjusted to the Army offensive and, over the past three years, the rebels have stepped up their attacks. On Feb. 27, FARC rebels attacked the town of Caloto in southern Cauca department on the same day Santos was holding a national security council meeting in the nearby city of Popayan.
The president has pursued a dual strategy — prosecuting the war while holding out the possibility of peace talks. And as the fighting in Caloto suggests, a final battlefield victory for either side seems remote, making it more likely the two sides may eventually find themselves in negotiations.
Yet Colombians by and large appear to have little enthusiasm for another round of talks.
The 1999-2002 negotiations ended in failure after the rebels refused to make any concessions and continued to kidnap civilians en masse. Those talks were cancelled 10 years ago this month after FARC commandos skyjacked a commuter plane, forced it to land on a rural highway and kidnapped a Colombian senator onboard.
Critics also ask why the country should negotiate with a group that has been blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe and enjoys a public approval rating of less than 1 percent in opinion polls. The FARC represents no one, according to these critics.
The world would be better without the FARC I LIKED IT 122354568525 If you really believe the hostages of Colombia represent for you part of the genome as Colombians and awakens in you the feeling of solidarity, I tell them: God is with them. Visit this link and you must know that the Virgin of Carmen will release them. Pray in this song and soon we will reunite them with our Colombia family http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wGObciu_IQ Colombians: the farc have very clear objectives: the seizure of power for "The DICTATORSHIP OF THE PEOPLE" using any means. It is a violent and intolerant theory, like the NAZIS, seizure of power at any price. The farc in its long career have not built a single hospital for the peasants, not a single University to graduate doctors that can relieve the health of the poorest, they kill and speak of peace (as the NAZIS did), have concentration camps, train children for war, kill anyone who is not their slave, included their own soldiers. THEY CAN CONTINUE LYING BUT NO ONE IN COLOMBIA BELIEVES THEM. The farc should be subjugated militarily, sending their butcher leaders to jail. Do not believe that you are going to win space with deceptive promises, farc are drug traffickers para-politicians, criminals that have no redemtion, as the bloody Mono JOJOY said: "I can not imagine myself without a rifle, I would be nobody," that is the farc, they only know how to kill, steal, live in chaos, they are Colombian society's cancer. Atte, Alfonso Cano I believe that the colleagues should continue eroding the Government with abductions because otherwise they will be those imprisoned and we will be very aware that we are not fulfilling our goal, I do not agree with making passes to the yankee colombian extreme right It is good thing that the farc stop kidnapping, but one wonders now that the group is declining, who can save us? that class that has run the country for two hundred years and has plunged the people in poverty and scandalous exploitation. Funny that the U.S. has never said a word in favor of the people that been so exploited, and when in a country emerges a Government with advanced policies that seeks to help the people, it is considered an enemy that must be destabilized. The Farc say they want dialogue and the truth is they are drawing back, they are going to try to make us believe they want peace as a last desperate gesture and delay their fall, the only negotiable thing is an unconditional surrender; hang in there, President Santos. sirs, the farc are not rebels, they are not the people's army, they are not simple peasants upraised in arms looking for social demands; they are drug traffickers, terrorists, assassins of masses of unarmed Colombians; an armed army whose purpose is to subdue a democracy and profit from an entire nation in order to be even wealthier; large landowners in the southern part of Colombia were tirofijo, mono jojoy and his war staff; they traded drugs at large scale and became the barons of cocaine,like one of their chiefs the so-called negro acacio, they have filled Colombia with deaths and kidnappings and were privileged by Governments such as former President AndrÃ©s Pastrana Arango who rewarded them with an extensive area for them to rearm, regroup, to strengthen and they were on the brink subjugating society and State, protected by a former President who in his big ego only saw a nobel peace prize as a goal. these unscrupulous criminals all they do is lie, kill and they will continue to kill while all the corrupt people in the army and politicians make a lot of money, keeping the people with lies. Go, be tough, otherwise our brothers will be killed. I would like to form part of you all because I like your ideals and I agree with them Truly,I do not believe the farc will give up that purpose, because for its leaders it is more fruitful to continue receiving easy money from extortion and kidnapping; also where will so many crimes, committed by that organization,end up. that's like asking for credit to have a clean slate and start from scratch, and the pain of so many bereaved families, feeling pain and impotence before those criminals. Gentlemen, our Liberator SimÃ³n BolÃvar said: "to the shadows of the mystery, only crime works" and that is to throw soil to the blood of so many innocent people and in a way it it to believe that the Government has not cared and that on behalf of that peace, this is the last handful of soil that is thrown upon those victims. I do not want or wish peace with impunities. I thank God because those kidnapped people reached their homes, but we should not forget the civilians that nobody knows how many they are and where they are, my thanks to former Senator Cordoba, always putting herself on the line and so criticized. When will they understand that she has been the only one that has risked her life for these hostage. Not one Minister, councilman or Congressman has said I will go with her, I sincerely congratulate you Mrs. Cordoba and the women that preceded her. Thank God for these demonstrations of wanting to reach a peace agreement. I believe that we must believe in the Lord. He has placed at the heart of this group that the road to the good life is peace, a dignified peace, with new dreams, sharing the most precious gift that is life as a family, giving and receiving love, love from their parents, their children. I believe that Colombia will welcome them and there will be forgiveness in the heart of all Colombians. LET US JOIN TOGETHER IN PRAYER FOR THIS MIRACLE TO TAKE PLACE AND THAT PEACE OF THE CONTINENT BEGINS IN COLOMBIA. Santos is clear to point out that the announcement made by the FARC about ceasing the abductions is an important and necessary step, but it is not enough for the peace negotiations. Obviously, there are other collateral elements of the guerrilla strategy, such as blackmailing and extortion (supposedly justified by relative needs of provisioning, when, in reality, cocaine should be a sufficient income; and also by the stubborn will of impacting socially and politically by any means) that prevents that one deems as Ad Portas the end of hostilities and the blossoming of a Colombia in peace. However, I do not believe that only the guerrillas should be consistent and abandon abductions entirely (and incidentally, extortion and blackmailing) but also the Government, which should persist in the implementation of programs tending towards the social and economic equilibrium of all classes that make up the largest country, and above all, to prove through actions against corruption that devours it from within that there is- in spite of everything - a strong decision of Justice and a deep desire for understanding towards the ones from "the bottom". In the same fashion, the Government must prove that it can control the vociferous ultra-right that just like the most unrestrained and antisocial left, does not want peace but the elimination of the "enemy", no matter what was its social and historical origin. Indeed, there should be no place,- guerrilla or Government- an excuse for not thinking tentatively in making these talks happen. Tomorrow will be the result of what we do today. Why is it that whenever people who have been deprived of their freedom are rescued there is so much publicity, and I am referring to the people that belong to the armed forces of Colombia. Why is it that during peace talks they have not been able to tell the Colombian people that soon all those civilians that are still in captivity in the jungle will soon be freed. There are so many families awaiting the day to see their loved ones again and they have spent all their lives awaiting a miracle from God so this can be a reality. Aren't they Colombians, too? I agree 100% with the final sentence of this article: THE FARC REPRESENTS NOBODY IN COLOMBIA, with the exception of the ringleaders and the little chiefs of this drug trafficking organization. There is no doubt that what is most depressing for the future of the members of this bloody criminal gang is the absence of a true leader that is able to see the reality in a clear and transparent way.Some one that be able to acknowledge that after more than half a century of causing a brutal, merciless war against the Colombian people, today the only thing they have reaped is the total disrespect of 47 million fellowmen, and a State that is armed to the teeth and fighting in a monolithic way, and is chasing them by land, sea and air. To top it off, the whole nation is so focused on their frontal struggle against these bandits, that it is already prepared for another half-century of combat against this terrorist group. Will the demoralized, dying and totally discredited Farc hang in there?????. If we, as civilians, have so many needs and misery in a country that is so wealthy, war will never end if there isn't a real change in politics and kick out all these thieves. In the meantime, they continue to send our children, the children of poverty, to a guerrilla movement that is waiting for them, and showing them, according to them, a real change. And not having an alternative, the war will increase even more, while the white collar thieves continue their wrong doing with what belongs to all Colombians Media should not be asking to so many people their opinion on such a delicate subject.These opinions are from different people who do not live the conflict and whose interest is only personal because these concepts are never going to be taken into account neither by the Government or by the guerrillas, and they only tend to confuse the perception that people have of the conflict the farc is a strategy to mislead the international community and the peoples We have to combat them with heavy weapons at any given place. Colombia allied with the United States is going to exterminate that scourge. Of course, innocent people are going to die, but this is a small price to pay for exterminating that scourge. I WONDER HOW MANY INNOCENT PEOPLE ARE KILLED BY THE GUERRILLA DAILY. THINK ABOUT IT AND ACT. what the FARC is pure strategy to deceive the people and the international community, that force must get heavy weapons at any point where this in Colombia of course allied with United States to end that kankrina, if a thousand vece if you have innocent deaths, BUT THIS iS VALUABLE BUT iS JUST THAT PLAGUE, I wonder KILLS iNNOCENT AS THE DAILY GUERRILLA, think and act. Mining is the new source of funding for the guerrillas, at least we can see it in the South of BolÃvar where the united gangs (Bacrines-Narcos-Guerrillas) are destroying the forest reserve of the San Lucas highlands. Currently each backhoe that belongs to that conspiracy pays to the commanders both the Farc and the Eln 5,000,000 pesos per month. According to the same authorities, there are more than 150 of these machines illegally exploiting alluvial mines in the basins of the most important rivers of the municipalities of Santa Rosa del Sur - Morales BolÃvar-Monte Cristo, BolÃvar - SimitÃ Bolivar - San Pablo BolÃvar-Arenal BolÃvar â€” among others. The seriousness of the situation is that in addition to extorting the small miners, they are destroying rivers wetlands and natural aquifers. Is it possible that the authorities will act in this case? We must kill the 8 thousand without contemplation, they are a scourge of the world... the Colombian Government should give a prudent deadline so that the guerrillas can repent and leave the FARC and if they do not, give the order together with an international command to kill and liquidate them. It will be 8,000 dead or some detainees but it will be the satisfaction of millions of citizens of the world...... Go ahead,Colombian Government, firmly grasp power. Its people and the world will appreciate it... death to the scourge of criminals... the so-called farc ... Let me doubt about that opinion survey. Who in Colombia would dare to openly express sympathy for the guerrillas. He/she would have a worse fate than the trade unionists, popular leaders and human rights advocates. It seems to me that you are very objective when publishing news, that is why we always read it with my family. President Santos wants to return to the Pastrana era with his anti-war speech On the concept of the future vision of the community, for whom wield power, those interested in the Colombian history, who are planning a future and transformative vision in this process of collective construction, in a pluralistic democratic state; I think there are sufficient events,they deserve a profound analysis with an ethical conduct to assess the causes that have originated this chain of events in which the protagonist is violence in different ways.-In order to sustain this concept it would be important to have a broad debate in the media, known as constructive guidance and free expression "it is a parameter of the political Constitution of Colombia" , likewise in education centers, preferably high school and college level and to include in them the community leaders; organized participation allows us to get familiar with the popular consciousness and the need to accept constructive criticism without satirical arguments and without sponsoring offenses in any sector; finally, excluding manipulations, summarize, organize, publish this plurality of opinions so they can be analyzed and taken into account by the Executive and legislators of the Colombian State. Thousands of comments from the Yankees, who do nothing else but try to take over Latin America, it's all the gringos' fault,move forward, farcep fellows. While there is a guerrilla standing, the project continues. Since 1964 we have had 48 years of permanent belligerence, and what does Santos do?, what did he say in his campaign?, just rant. All speculations are worth as simple speculation. The FARC continue to impose conditions. They must be invited to participate in general elections and period. Ensure them amnesty and total freedom. The boys are tired of the jungle, if the Colombian right continues to rule, Uribe was the most typical server of rupestrian democracy that only protects those who are strongest, that is, it is best to compete in the same field. Now the left is ruling in Latin America and nobody cries for that democratic change. The privileges had been extended to everybody If they refuse, they lose because their allies will consider them intransigent, as if they wanted to live by expediency in the current conditions of clashes. THE FARC is the true army of the Colombian people that fight for a big Latin America! Not as it is today:Colombia is just one more province of the United States They are nothing in life. DOCTOR CARLOS ALBERTO HERNANDEZ HERNANDEZ WAS KIDNAPPED BY FRONT 51 OF THE FARC ON NOVEMBER 23, 1997. THEY HAVE NEVER GIVEN PROOF OF SURVIVAL. WE DEMAND HIS RELEASE OR A RESPONSE FROM THE FARC. WHY is a lead so poorly written still in the headlines of my PC when I read the news? First of all, they are not rebels, they are terrorists; second, they not stick to their commitments, they have kidnapped again: oil Chinese entrepreneurs (china suppresses news for its ideological affinity) and a French journalist; third, the lead seems to favor the dying terrorist sub-group. I would ask for them to write more appropriate headlines. This farc is a garbage, rubbish, they are parasites and rogue, a scum of the worst, these cowards. Decadent communism and the rupestrian and outdated ideology of the damned farc. It would be better that they continue living in Venecuba, in Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, because in Colombia they have not been welcomed for a long time. For Chavez's godsons, they should be talked to in the same language: A RAIN OF BULLETS, PIPETTES OF GAS, CYANIDE, RAT POISON, ANYTHING SHOULD BE UTILIZED TO EXTERMINATE THEM. I would like to request information about the kidnapping of a Military Police Officer called: Juan Carlos Chavarro Sierra, the kidnapping happened more than 14 years ago by FARCâ€™s Military, my wife is Juan Carlos' sister she still hopes to find him alive; I am Brazilian and I work as a Radio Broadcaster in the city of Manaus â€“ Amazonas Brazil. Thank you for any information. Att. Jaimar Saraiva my e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Go forward, President Santos, you have been able to clearly interpret the Colombian problem, don't be intimidated by the CORRUPT PEOPLE in this country, that they are much worse than any kind of terrorism and crime that affects this country. Go ahead, Mr. President, with your peace and understanding policy among peoples. Do not continue to allow the activities of the major transnational weapons industry, getting wealthier thanks to the impoverished and hardworking Colombian people who do not deserve it... Those who do not know in depth the conflict should not issue concepts. They should emit concepts only after having studied the subject thoroughly and in an impartial way. The FARC are not a bunch of bandits as the politicians from the right and far right like to say, with the desire to depict them as "terrorists". That is a lie. A guerrilla was born of an urgent need from the heart of the people,regardless of which one.LetÂ´s read Colombian political history, seriously. At this time, the Farc have reached a degree of organization, which has a very well defined hierarchical scale and it is rigorously observed. Its dome is comprised of professionals in different areas, and they have extensive experience in the conflict. All the hierarchical rank is ready to assume positions of responsibility and that is why when one of its members falls, there is another one, even better prepared, that takes his place. But they not only know and face the national inequality, they also know and contribute to eradicate the other inequities of the continent. All America knows its real history and its actions, except the Colombians, uninformed victims of cultural precarity of reporters of the common, employees of the two largeempires in the country, supported by other Governments of well-known right-wing brand. They have had wrong moments, yes, they have and they have suffered for that.Something hurts them: the educational poverty of the average Colombian who doesn't allow them to think in a more industrious nation, business, University, and much less petty politics. They know that other countries are emerging, are improving their lifestyle, and Colombia is becoming endangered, poor and hungry. They are asking for better ways for the East, not better military supplies. Who hears them? Terrorists! is the answer. From Paraguay I would like to send a message to the guerrillas of the Farc: it is not necessary to continue fighting with weapons, because the best weapon is the pen, to know how to explain, to demonstrate in concrete facts what is happening in their country. If you continue with this fight, you will only receive hate and rejection from the democratic world. We say no to communism, and we say yes to a democratic socialism, for the defense of the farmers'rights. This is my humble opinion as a patriotic Paraguayan. As long as a Colombian stand ready to fight, the Yankees will never be able to take over our homeland. Long live FARC EP, go forward with your heads up high, you are the war's barons, FARC and ELN, present and not absent.... More deaths were caused by the paramilitaries in a few years, supported by Uribe who was the worst President and the guerrilla are fighters of the people and are simple people. We know the great problem of our Colombian brothers since the 1970s, which has devastated entire populations, like the southern territory when plan Colombia that, by having mercenaries in their ranks, did not respect nor distinguished who was Farc and who was not. If the long nightmare of Colombia ends, what happiness! Even I was a victim of a bomb placed in BogotÃ¡ in 1997 and I saved my life miraculously, but not so two people working together with me who lost their lives and the bad memory of those bodies which at times looked like meat that is sold in the Uruguayan butchers, will not be erased of my mind. If it wasn't for this, I would currently live in BogotÃ¡, because I was really very well treated, despite not being Colombian. Therefore, if peace finally comes, we should celebrate it. I followed the case of Ingridâ€™s kidnapping and I read her biography, and I almost entered in a depressive state when I read about what this woman went through along the other captives. I really think this is a great cruelty what the FARC did to its hostages.. but thank God that is all overâ€¦â€¦. I think that the governments don't provide support to the most distant areas of the countries, and the population becomes too needy and they let people in a very fragile state, a lot can be obtained with schools and high quality education, that can even be leveled with the first world, if people who are educated are compared to the ones who are not and without any match, and the only way to make a great life turn You cannot talk about peace when they destroy bridges that peasants use to take their products out to sell. It cannot be accepted to say that they are in favor of people when they bomb the poorest villages. Kidnapping is a horrible crime, release all abductees, stop drug trafficking, deliver the weapons and make opposition with Smart Reasons. I think that the guerrillas should be given the opportunity to be rehabilitate themselves with the people. We don't want more violence. We want peace. HI, I ALSO WANT, I AM LONGING TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO JUAN CARLOS CHAVARRO SIERRA. MANY YEARS HAVE ELAPSED IN WHICH I'VE LOOKED ONLINE, I HAVE INQUIRED IN MANY PLACES AND NOBODY GIVES ME A REASON, SIMPLY NOBODY SAYS ANYTHING... Blessed peacemakers for they are God's children. We are going through the best time thanks God. President, the Colombians are supporting this Treaty in company with God THE STUPID SANTOS DOES NOT REALIZE THAT THOSE DRUG-TERRORISTS ARE ARMING THEMSELVES WITH ALL THE ARSENAL THAT CHAVEZ AND CORREA ARE GIVING THEM. THESE NARCO-TERRORISTS CONTINUE WITH THE STRATEGY TO SPEAKING ABOUT PEACE WHEN THEY ARE CORNERED. THE VENECO-FARC KEEP BLACKMAILING, KIDNAPPING CHILDREN FOR WAR, KILLING PEASANTS, ATTACKING DEFENSELESS PEOPLE. The first stick in the wheel that was placed by the guerrillas is Trinidad, and he is sentenced to 60 years in jail for kidnapping Americans, not even Obama has the power to issue an amnesty, this corresponds to the judges. Chavez is losing the elections, and thus the guerrilla won't have a safe place in Venezuela. They say and they deny that they have no hostages. Santos is facing increasing problems. According to the reports, the leadership of the Farc does not have command upon all fronts. So where is the Government of Santos? We have always maintained that the coordinates facing the heroic struggle of the FARC EP are those of Latin America. It is not only to expel the gringos from the homeland of Santander, the priest Camilo or commander Marulanda. It is the Patria Grande. It is the motherland liberated by BolÃvar and his lieutenants - Creole or foreign - as Colonel John McKintosh, hero of Pichincha, 1822. It is the homeland of Alfaro, victimized in Quito, 1912. And as the dialogues prompt the excited support of all progressive sectors of Latin America, from the Anglican pulpit we offer our solidarity prayer, our collaboration, our willingness to join the FARC EP delegation in these dialogues in Oslo, in Havana, or where it is designated by the history. Until Victory Always. Fatherland or Death, We shall win!