Not Out of the Woods Yet

farc_2372829b[The FARC’s attempted, negotiated entry into parliamentary politics did not arise spontaneously. It is part of a long history that includes numerous political errors stemming from revisionism. It cannot be stressed more that revolution does not happen through negotiation and participation within the confines of Old Power, the old state and institutions of reactionary society. Real revolution is about constructing a New Power, independent, proletarian institutions that challenge and contend with the Old Power. We cannot legislate revolution. We cannot reform capitalism into socialism. Capitalism and its institutions must be smashed. You cannot have revolution without revolution. We need a whole new system, not merely an improved version of the old one. This has been proven over and over and over. — NP]

Not Out of the Woods Yet

(THE ECONOMIST)

Just as an agreement is reached, news of an assassination plot highlights the risks to the peace negotiations.

BOGOTÃ – When President Juan Manuel Santos began peace talks with Colombia’s FARC guerillas last November, he promised that the negotiations would take “months, not years”. As well as seeking to reassure voters that the rebels would not be allowed to spin out the process as cover for their own regrouping. Mr Santos has the country’s political calendar in mind. Congressional and presidential elections are due in March and May of next year. He had hoped to do a deal to end the country’s half-century of conflict in time for the launch of his re-election bid, which has a deadline of November 25th.

The schedule has turned out to be too tight. On November the negotiators reached a draft agreement on only the second of six items that are up for discussion. The resolution would establish new measures to favor small political parties, including any born of an eventual demobilization of the FARC. It would create temporary special congressional districts for the areas hardest hit by the conflict – in other words, those where the FARC are strongest – as a way of ensuring that the rebels have a shot at winning representation. The deal followed an agreement in May on how to cope with deep poverty in the countryside.

The two accords are tribute to the seriousness of these negotiations, in contrast to previous talks. Nonetheless, the discussions remain vulnerable to derailment. This was underlined on November 12th by the discovery of an apparent plot by the FARC to murder Alvaro Uribe, a former president who opposed the talks, along with attorney-general and several other leading politicians. The plans – whose date is unclear – were attributed to the FARC’s Teòfilo Forero Column, responsible for several attacks around Bogotà, including the 2003 bombing of a private club. If current, the plot would suggest that some factions within the rebel ranks do not want to make peace. Though the FARC maintain a vertical command, people involved in the talks estimate that up to 20% of the rebels may defect if a deal is reached.

The plot gave ammunition to conservatives, led by Mr Uribe, who say Colombia should not negotiate with the FARC. “These are the little saints that they are going to turn into a political party,” Mr Uribe said. After serving two terms in office, he is constitutionally barred from running again for president. But he is backing a former finance minister, Õscar Ivàn Zuluaga, in the next year’s election. Polls show that Mr Santos has the edge.

Mr Santos had floated the idea of suspending talks during the election campaign but, after the latest agreement, said that the negotiations would continue. He still hopes to ratify an accord  through a referendum at the same time as next year’s congressional or presidential votes. Even more important to his plans, however, is to sign a final accord before the new Congress is inaugurated in July. Mr Uribe, who is running for the Senate, hopes that his party will win as many as 20 of the chamber’s 201 seats. That would form an obstacle to passing the legislation necessary to implement an eventual peace accord.

The negotiators will plough on. The next subject on the agenda, drug trafficking, should be relatively straightforward. Cocaine has been a big source of income for the FARC, but many of the guerillas consider it a necessary evil. On November 12th Timoleòn Jimènez, the FARC’s top commander, said that the rebels’ “satisfaction with a Colombia without coca (the raw ingredient for cocaine) will be enormous”. Mr Santos has led calls internationally for an overhaul of drug policy, including alternatives to prohibition. The two sides will probably not be too far apart.

“A 50-year war is hard to finish in 52 weeks,” Mr Santos has said. If a deal is not signed in the coming months, the war may continue for a while yet.

[Transcribed by Red Lion]

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