Friday, March 7, 2014

Colombia: FARC Rebels Want Washington to Join Peace Talks, a Bizarre Notion That Makes Little Sense

According to Reuters, Colombia's FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a much larger rebel group compared to the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN), has asked Washington to join the peace talks in Havana, saying it would speed up the process given the fact that the US Government makes all decisions anyway.

The US State Department said it disagreed with the FARC's assessment and was unaware of any effort to join the talks. Colombia did not respond to the request, which it would likely reject on grounds of national sovereignty.

"We are discussing a matter of interest for the US," Iván Márquez, head of the FARC's negotiating team in Havana, told reporters before entering the latest round of talks.

"Who is really determining what happens or not here is the US government, so we would like to speak with the government of the US....We would reach an understanding much quicker," Márquez said.

For the past 15 months, Cuba has hosted talks aimed at ending a half-century guerrilla conflict, the longest in Latin America, which has claimed some 200,000 lives and displaced millions more. Norway has participated in the talks as a so-called facilitator. 

COMMENT: It would be very unwise for the US government to at this late date participate in peace negotiations with the FARC, particularly considering that no cease-fire was a condition that the Colombian government should have insisted on in the first place.

The FARC criticized a purported encounter between the US and Colombia, according to Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón who allegedly met with the US State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Reuters has not confirmed whether such a meeting ever took place. 

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a news briefing that the US welcomed the peace process, but that "we are not a party to these negotiations and not aware of efforts for us to be a party to these negotiations."

Regarding the FARC's claims that Washington was making decisions in the peace process, Psaki said, "I would not share that assessment."

Since the end of the Cold War and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, however, many analysts have commented that Washington has lost much of its interest in Latin America and even ignored the region.