Nobel Peace Prize a positive note in Colombian conflict
BOGOTA: The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos is likely to give a boost to the country’s efforts to end a half-century of hostilities with leftist rebels. Here is how the conflict began.
How it started The 1948 assassination of populist firebrand Jorge Eliecer Gaitan led to a political bloodletting known as The Violence. Tens of thousands died, and peasant groups joined with communists to arm themselves. A 1964 mil- itary attack on their encampment led to the creation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc.
What the rebels wanted Though nominally Marxist, Farc’s ideology has never been well defined. It has sought to make the conservative oligarchy share power and prioritised land reform in a country where more than five million people have been forcibly displaced, mostly by far-right militias in the service of ranchers, businessmen and drug traffickers.
Farc lost popularity as it turned to kidnapping, extortion and taxes on cocaine pro- duction and illegal gold mining to fund its insurgency.
How the US got involved In 2000, the US began sending billions of dollars to counter drug-trafficking and the insurgency under “Plan Colombia", which helped security forces weaken Farc and kill several top commanders. The State Department classifies Farc as a terrorist organisation.
The human toll More than 220 000 lives have been lost, most of them civilians, and almost eight million people have been driven from their homes in the conflict. In the past two decades, most of the killings were inflicted by the militias, which made peace with the government in 2003.
Farc abducted ranchers, politicians and soldiers. Its captives included former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three US military contractors, all of whom were rescued in 2008.
Peace efforts Mid-1980s peace talks collapsed after death squads killed at least 3 000 allies of Farc’s political wing.
Another peace effort fell apart in 2002 after the rebels hijacked an airliner to kidnap a senator.
The latest peace talks began formally in 2012 and concluded last month when a deal was signed by Santos and Farc leader Rodrigo Londono.
A few days later, however, it was narrowly rejected by Colombian voters in an October 2 referendum, forcing both sides back to the drawing board. – ANA-AP
Cuba’s president Raul Castro, centre, watches as Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos, left, shakes hands with Farc rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, after signing a historic ceasefire deal between the Colombian government and Farc rebels in Havana, Cuba, in June.