An agreement may be reached between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) by next month.
President Manuel Santos of Colombia recently received a pledge of $450 million from President Obama to help with the peace process and its implementation.
This administration has been consistently optimistic about the peace process and, along with many Colombians, has wished for an end to the conflict that has caused so much death, pain, and terror for Colombia's people.
That peace process is also consistent with the philosophy of an administration that has tremendous faith in the ability of diplomacy and good will to make peace even with the most bitter and vicious enemy.
Peace agreements with terrorist or guerilla groups have had mixed results.
In some cases these groups have found a way of channeling their demands through the formation of political parties (e.g., the M-19 in Colombia, the Tupamaros in Uruguay, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador and others).
In other cases, peace agreements or truces have been consistently violated (Hamas reconciliation agreements with the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah agreements with the United Nations in the aftermath of the Lebanese war and other cases).
We fully understand that the Colombian people want to give peace a chance and this is why they elected Santos.
The parameters of the agreement with the FARC carry some serious risks as we pointed out elsewhere
Yet, the most important thing is to minimize the risks in such negotiations in order to leave less leeway for the FARC to play a double end game.
For example leaders of the FARC hold multimillion dollar properties in Costa Rica.
Although the Colombian government announced it will seize more than $20 million from the FARC after the peace agreement is signed, this is mostly money believed to be in Colombia. It is believed that the FARC has way more money than that in accounts throughout the world.
Former Western Hemisphere Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega suggested he Treasury Department should seize assets of the FARC leaders and not allow them to use our financial system.
Likewise, Noriega suggests that the State Department should not remove the FARC from the state sponsor of terrorism list until it is clear they have ended their terror tactics.
The FARC, like other terrorist organizations, has operated in association with criminal or terrorist subcontractors. These sub-groups may not necessarily feel bound by the agreements and thus they may continue to be involved in activities such as drug trafficking, extortion, and even terrorism.
The peace agreement does not secure the disbandment of these sub-groups and thus it is possible that the FARC will continue their operations while using these groups as a cover. The PLO for example, has refused to take responsibility for terrorist attacks carried by other terrorist groups previously associated with the PLO.
It is not clear whether any of the conditions that Santos should impose on the FARC were brought up by the U.S. envoy to the talks, Bernard Aronson. Aronson seemed pleased with the fact that U.S representatives treated the FARC negotiators with respect.
Aronson expected to crack “the stereotype of the arrogant imperialist.” Hopefully, there was more of substance to American participation in the negotiations than simply trying to convince the murderous, drug trafficking FARC leaders that we respect them and that we are no longer the bad guys.
We cannot be apologetic or worry about the manipulation of the past against us at a time when our national security is at stake. The future of the FARC, drug trafficking activities, and other criminal and terrorist associations is as much a Colombian problem as it is an American problem.
Drug trafficking cannot function without the “American market” and its accomplices. Terrorist activities are usually directed against our allies, not against our enemies.
Expansion of anarchy and violence in our vicinity will affect us. The Western Hemisphere is the neighborhood where we live.
Peace may deserve a chance but “distrust, verify and imagine the worst case scenarios” must be guiding principles.
Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Florida Atlantic University Honors College and FAU Lifelong Learning Society. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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