Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Colombia: Peace Talks Reconvene in Havana Amidst an Awkward Reassembly

According to The Latin American Tribune, Colombia has taken two steps to salvage the peace negotiations with the leftist rebel group, Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) by sending negotiators to Havana where the talks are taking place, and by explaining the abduction of a general that prompted the suspension of the peace process and who has asked for a discharge from military service.

A day after Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate was released by the FARC along with his two companions, a corporal and a lawyer, the government sent a reduced delegation to Cuba on Monday (December 1) to resume the negotiations with the rebel group.

Up to 70% of the objectives set by the parties have been achieved in two years of talks aimed at ending Latin America’s longest insurgency.

Accompanying the mission is chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle, High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo and two retired generals who have already conducted negotiations with the FARC.

De la Calle told journalists before leaving Bogotá that they were going with the intention of moving “from discussion to action” and to promote a “de-escalation” of the conflict to salvage the dialogue.

Peace talks were suspended by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on November 17, hours after the three were kidnapped, and given the green light to resume on Sunday when the general and his companions were released.

However, it will take more than just sitting together again at the table to recover from the worst crisis to hit the peace process which is why the government has also explained the general’s kidnapping.

Alzate was abducted in a remote area of the forested Choco Department where he went without notifying local authorities, was dressed in civilian clothes and without the usual contingent of accompanying bodyguards.

In his first public appearance on Monday at Bogotá’s Central Military Hospital, the General explained the circumstances that caused him to travel unprotected in an area which is a FARC stronghold.

Alzate said that he decided to go as part of his “closeness” to the community for the implementation of a program for economic development through the installation of power generators in the underdeveloped region, one of the poorest in the country.

He acknowledged that his “zeal for service” led him “to not apply security procedures that should have been adopted.”

COMMENT: I continue to wonder why President Juan Manuel Santos did not  formally engage in the sanctioning of the FARC for failing to return the kidnap victims on Saturday (November 29) while delaying the captives' return to their families on November 30, all of which was a grievous infraction and lack of respect to President Santos.

Gen. Alzate added that out of his military honor and his love and respect for the institution, “that have been affected by this incident” he requested the national government for a “discharge from active service."

In reference to images distributed by the FARC in which he appears smiling next to “Pastor Alape," a FARC negotiator in Havana, and leader, Ivan Rios, who kidnapped him, the general said that he was “forced to take part in a media show,” which included photos and videos taken on the day of his release.

“We strongly oppose any use by FARC of images of these releases that is outside of what has been agreed to. If the FARC asks for fair treatment, it also has to behave with dignity,” said De la Calle.

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