No­bel Peace Prize a pos­i­tive note in Colom­bian con­flict

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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.

In­grid Be­tan­court

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