[QODLink]
Inside Story Americas
Will Colombia peace talks end FARC control?
We ask if government negotiations with rebels will finally tackle the underlying causes behind 50 years of conflict.
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2012 10:55

It is the longest civil conflict in the western hemisphere. Decades of fighting that has killed and displaced hundreds of thousands in Colombia.

Members of rural communities formed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the 1960s in order to protect themselves from rich landowners and government-backed paramilitary forces.

Now nearly five decades later, FARC leaders and the Colombian government have once again gathered – this time in Norway – for negotiations to end the conflict.

"One of the changes we see from previous peace processes is that the military, instead of being outside of the table, are right at the table. I think that is some ways may avoid the possibility of the military being behind the table trying to overturn it."

- Virginia Bouvier, a Latin America specialist

At a press conference in Oslo, Humberto de la Calle, the Colombian government representative, reiterated that there will be no ceasefire until both sides reached a comprehensive agreement. But he did say that a societal transformation is necessary for talks to be successful.

De la Calle said: "The end of the armed conflict is just the initiation of peace. To obtain peace we need to transform society and we are ready to look for mechanisms that can guarantee the fulfillment of these aspirations. Another essential element is the implementation and guarantee of political participation."

During his speech, the FARC's lead negotiator, Ivan Marquez, emphasised that talks cannot succeed unless the government deals with transnational companies who, he says, have robbed the country of its natural resources on the backs of the poor.

Marquez said: "One cannot enslave this process to a policy that is only about obtaining gains for a few capitalists that don't care about the poverty that affects 70 per cent of the population. They only think about increasing their fortunes."

"The negotiations are to end the armed conflict but there's an agreement there will need to be structural change, and it is very interesting that the main issue there is agrarian reform – land – and not natural resources and extraction."

- Marc Chernick, a political scientist

During an interview with Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo in Havana, Cuba, another of FARC's negotiators, Andres Paris, was asked why a unilateral ceasefire was not in place before negotiations began.

Paris said: "One of the first topics on the agenda should be the ceasefire but not a unilateral one. We are willing to talk about a bilateral ceasefire, agreed under a formula that does not mean a defeat of the insurgency."

The five key points in the negotiations are land reforms, the future of FARC rebels, how to bring a permanent end to hostilities, reparations and justice for victims of the conflict, and how to decrease the production of illicit drugs.

Inside Story Americas asks: Will the underlying causes of Colombia's conflict be resolved?

To discuss this with presenter Shihab Rattansi are guests: James Jones, a development specialist who has worked extensively in FARC-controlled areas; Marc Chernick, an assistant professor of political science and Latin American studies at Georgetown University; Virginia Bouvier, a Latin America specialist at the US Institute of Peace.

"About 75 per cent of the massacres are attributed to the right-wing paramilitaries and the government, or the two working together. The rest of it would be attributable to the insurgent groups. That's probably not an unrealistic figure."

James Jones, a development specialist


Who are the FARC?
The group was founded by Manuel Marulanda in 1964. Their aim was to represent Colombia's rural poor and form a government. The group favours the redistribution of wealth and opposes privatisation. Official figures show that the FARC was at the height of its power in 2002, when it had 12,000 fighters and 40 per cent of the country's land. The government crackdown has weakened the movement over the last decade. Since Marulanda's death from a heart attack on March 26, 2008, government attacks have killed several rebel leaders. Timoleon Jimenez, a FARC hardliner, was appointed commander in November 2011. He has repeatedly called for peace talks with the Colombian government.

Colombian paramilitaries:
In the 1960s the government legalised the arming and training of civilians in the hope that they could assist the army against the FARC. These armed civilian groups killed thousands of people over the years.

842

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Featured
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.
join our mailing list