Friday, August 22, 2014

Colombia: Update--Toll of Rebel Attacks of Late Amount to $531 Million

According to The Latin American Tribune, nearly 100 attacks by leftist rebels on Colombian oil infrastructure this year have cost the Andean nation roughly 1 trillion pesos ($531 million), an industry group said.

The president of the Colombian Petroleum Association, Francisco José Lloreda, said the attacks are causing a drop in royalty payments to municipalities and thus reducing the funds available for education, health and sanitation projects.

“It’s equivalent to around a trillion pesos. That’s without counting the cost of repairing (crude) transport infrastructure,” Lloreda added.

COMMENT: I am personally stunned that President Santos has not screamed “enough!,” and summarily cancelled peace talks in Havana with the FARC, now in its third year.

If anything, the current meeting schedule in Havana with the FARC nearly suggests that Santos himself seems to be "running out the clock for when the President would leave office, leaving a real Catch-22 for the next Colombian president."

As I have said so often in the past, hopefully the Colombian Petroleum Association will get agitated sufficiently to put pressure on President Santos to accomplish TWO objectives: 

1. Force both the FARC and the ELN to establish a three-way binding CEASE-FIRE before any peace talks continue from this moment on; 

and

2.  Place a reasonable deadline on the conclusion of the peace talks with both the FARC and the ELN that would culminate a reasonable period of time prior to the end of President Santos’ term of office.

Both goals would promptly institute a badly needed cease-fire in a conflict has has lasted 50 YEARS that taken the lives of 200,000+ Colombian lives and prevent President Santos from leaving the peace talks for another President to inherit.

Lloreda called on the Colombian government to provide security guarantees irrespective of whether a peace deal is reached with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group in talks in Havana dating back to 2012.

“With or without an agreement with the FARC and ELN (National Liberation Army), the nation must come together to support this industry,” Lloreda emphasized.

The National Liberation Army, a much smaller leftist rebel group known as the ELN, has been engaged since January 2014 in an “exploratory” dialogue with the government with a view to entering into its own peace process with President Juan Manuel Santos’ government, although no serious negotiations have gotten underway.

The FARC and ELN have carried out numerous attacks in recent months on oil infrastructure, particularly pipelines and tanker trucks in the northern provinces of Arauca and Norte de Santander, which border Venezuela, and in Putumayo, which borders Ecuador.

The rebels, both the FARC and the ELN, have forced caravans of tanker trucks to dump their crude on the roads and those spills are contaminating water sources that serve nearby communities.