Cease-fire reached in Colom­bia’s half-cen­tury civil war

U.S. hails talks to tame FARC

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY GUY TAY­LOR

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon and re­gional lead­ers were set to de­scend on Ha­vana last week to cel­e­brate what could be the last ma­jor step to­ward end­ing the Western Hemi­sphere’s longestrun­ning war, as Colom­bia’s gov­ern­ment and left­ist FARC rebels sign a much-an­tic­i­pated cease-fire and dis­ar­ma­ment deal.

While the agree­ment comes months af­ter a self-im­posed March dead­line set by the two sides, U.S. of­fi­cials hailed the devel­op­ment as “an im­por­tant step for­ward” in the elu­sive ef­fort to for­mally end a guer­rilla war that has killed more than 220,000 peo­ple, dis­placed mil­lions of Colom­bians over the past half-cen­tury and proved a source of in­sta­bil­ity and drug traf­fick­ing across Latin Amer­ica.

“Some­times diplo­macy, par­tic­u­larly this kind of dif­fi­cult diplo­macy, takes time and takes a lot of hard work,” said State Depart­ment spokesman John Kirby, adding that U.S. of­fi­cials are es­pe­cially grate­ful to Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan San­tos for the “ef­fort that he put in to get the process this far.”

But Mr. Kirby also said Pres­i­dent Obama’s own pur­suit of diplo­matic de­tente with the left­ist Cas­tro regime in Cuba — a long­time backer of the FARC — had a key im­pact on the ne­go­ti­a­tions. “Cer­tainly it helped fos­ter a bet­ter cli­mate,” Mr. Kirby said. “But there isn’t one fac­tor here that got us to this point.”

Orig­i­nally founded as a Marx­ist peas­ant in­sur­gency in Colom­bia, the FARC — the Span­ish acro­nym for the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia — is widely be­lieved to con­trol some 60 per­cent of the na­tion’s il­licit co­caine trade.

While Washington spent more than $10 bil­lion in the past 15 years on a coun­ternar­cotics ef­fort to help Colom­bia’s mil­i­tary and po­lice weaken and kill sev­eral top FARC com­man­ders, an­a­lysts say, Mr. San­tos, who staked his 2014 re-elec­tion cam­paign on reach­ing peace with the group, de­serves the lion’s share of the credit for this week’s de­vel­op­ments.

The ma­jor­ity of Colom­bians alive today have never known their coun­try to be un­di­vided and at peace.

“The dis­ar­ma­ment and cease-fire agree­ment be­tween the Colom­bian gov­ern­ment and the FARC is a break­through that would have seemed im­pos­si­ble only a few years ago,” said Ja­son Mar­czak, who heads the Latin Amer­ica Eco­nomic Growth Ini­tia­tives at the At­lantic Coun­cil, a Washington think tank.

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