Friday, May 30, 2014

Colombia: Update--Two Left-Leaning Alliances Support President Santos in Supporting a Deal with FARC At Any Cost?

According to The Latin American Tribune, Colombia’s two most left-leaning political formations endorsed center-right incumbent Juan Manuel Santos in the June 15 presidential runoff against rightist Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, yet the country’s largest leftist party urged its supporters to abstain.

Union Patriotica and Marcha Patriotica said they are both supporting President Santos to ensure the continuance of the peace process he initiated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November 2012.

Zuluaga, the political protegé of former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe, is skeptical about the talks with the FARC, although he says he has changed his mind about suspending the negotiations if he becomes head of state.

“We believe that the best thing at this time is to support the candidate who has opened the dialogue and who moves down the path of a political and negotiated solution,” UP leader Aida Avella told a press conference in Bogotá.

COMMENT: It is my greatest fear that President Santos wants a "deal" with the FARC so badly that he will agree to almost any deal with the rebels simply to be reelected.

The real question is not what is good for the FARC, but rather what agreement is best for all Colombians, particularly those who have lost sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and casualties at the hands of the FARC over a 50-year-old war.

To date, 200,000 Colombians have died at the hands of the rebels. Is such a high loss of life sufficient to give the FARC a "pass" and legitimize a poorly negotiated peace accord that will "never bury the hatchet"?

To agree to any deal with the rebels that could well place both the incumbent and Zuluaga in making concessions that neither will bring a lasting peace to Colombian victims of the war.

Avella spent 17 years abroad after surviving a 1996 assassination attempt. Some 4,000 members of the UP, including legislators, mayors and two presidential hopefuls, were murdered over the course of a decade.
Union Patriotica originated in 1985 as the fruit of an agreement between the FARC and then-President Belisario Betancur, who wanted the rebels to abandon armed struggle in favor of electoral politics.

The UP leader was herself a candidate for vice president in last Sunday’s first round.

Avella was the running mate of Clara López, presidential nominee of the leftist main opposition PDA, who finished fourth, with just over 15% of the vote.

PDA leaders and elected officials met Thursday to decide what stance the party should take in the runoff.

While some in the PDA, including Senator-elect Ivan Cepeda, urged support for Santos, the opposing faction prevailed in the internal debate.

Acknowledging party members’ freedom to vote in accordance with their individual consciences, Clara López said voters should make their choice with the “understanding that the PDA is, and will be, an opponent of the agendas of the two competing candidates.”

Marcha Patriotica, founded in 2012 by student and peasant organizations and said to have links to the FARC, joined UP in endorsing Santos.