statement at end of FARC talks, January 13, 2002
DC, January 13, 2002 9:30 PM
hours remain before a three-year-old peace process between the Colombian
government and FARC guerrillas will come to an official end. The FARC,
whose final offer to continue the dialogues was rejected by President
Andrés Pastrana, has indicated that it will vacate all towns in
the zone that was demilitarized to hold the talks.
The UN envoy who
worked with the FARC to hammer out its final offer, James LeMoyne, deserves
great praise. The document he helped them to draft represented the
most significant concession the guerrillas made during the entire history
of the process. The final FARC document tacitly dropped a demand that
had kept the guerrillas from the table for over three months: that the
Colombian military call off roadblocks, overflights and other so-called
"control measures" in the territory and airspace surrounding
We agree with the
Pastrana government that the demand the FARC held until Saturday - that
the government lift the official control measures - was not justified
by any previous agreement or precondition for talks. But the guerrillas'
concerns about a growing paramilitary presence in the municipalities surrounding
the zone were valid, and could have been addressed by an international
commission, as contemplated in point 11 of the FARC proposal.
As it comes right
after the guerrillas' significant concession, the Center for International
Policy is saddened by President Pastrana's rejection of further dialogue.
It would have been vastly preferable that even a moribund peace process
be handed over to Pastrana's successor in August, in order to avoid starting
from zero under a new government. We strongly hope that Mr. Pastrana's
decision was based on his own convictions, and not determined by pressures
from other powerful sectors.
With the apparent
end of the peace process, the Center for International Policy is very
concerned about the potential for paramilitary violence inside the zone.
For years the world has been sickened by massacres and selective killings
in other regions that the rightist groups considered to be guerrilla-held,
and by the Colombian authorities' failure to react. Because of this pattern,
we are alarmed by the prospect of massive casualties in the five municipalities
of the former FARC zone. We call on the Colombian military to take all
measures legally necessary to protect the zone's civilian population from
armed groups, especially the paramilitaries whose large-scale entry is
expected. We call on the U.S. government to use its vast network of
contacts with the Colombian military to pressure for a comprehensive effort
to protect the zone's residents. If these contacts, bought with hundreds
of millions of dollars in aid, cannot bring even this result, they are
not worth having.
The Center for International
Policy also reminds the U.S. government that, by law, all grant assistance
for Colombia's security forces during the past few years is for counternarcotics
purposes only. This includes the fourteen UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters
delivered to the Colombian Army this past Tuesday, January 8. In no
way can any Colombian Army operation to re-take the demilitarized zone
be construed as a counter-narcotics operation. If CIP finds that aircraft
or other assistance supplied for counternarcotics purposes is used in
this or other counter-insurgency operations, we will notify the U.S. and
Colombian publics and will work very closely with congressional allies
who share our concern.