Tags: FARC | Terrorizes | Peace | March

FARC Terrorizes Peace March

Sunday, 30 September 2001 12:00 AM

The blow is apparently solely in the realm of public opinion, however, because no major candidate, including Serpa, has changed their position on the peace process. Newsmax.com interviewed Liberal Senator Maurcio Jaramillo of Tolima about the peace process and the possibility of changes should frontrunner Serpa become president.

Responding to questions by Newsmax.com, Serpa refused to qualify the actions of the group as terrorist, thus joining Pastrana in his reluctance to use this internationally charged term to describe the FARC guerrillas.

A group of countries which has supported the peace process cancelled talks with the guerrillas that had been scheduled for September 29, following the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Many speculate that this may have been in deference to the United States, which has listed the FARC among three principal terrorist groups operating in the country, along with the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) and the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).

The peace process has been extremely unpopular in Colombia, holding President Pastrana's popularity ratings below 20 percent in most polls. The most tangible result of the peace process has been the distension zone around San Vicente del Caguán, a zone that has routinely been used for coca cultivation, narcotrafficking, holding kidnapped persons and for its stated purpose as a site to hold talks.

The talks have produced little, including a long sought cease-fire. A peace "treaty" proposed by the Commission of Notables, chaired by two communists and one non-communist, has been the latest development. But few believe that Pastrana has the support to invoke a Constitutional Assembly, the key component of the treaty that must be implemented to create a cease-fire.

All these developments have had the effect of charging the campaign of right-wing candidate Álvaro Uribe Vélez, the only candidate that has expressed an interest in ending the current peace process and the distension zone. In a poll to be released this weekend, Uribe has surged to 26 percent to Serpa's 44 percent. This is significant because Serpa, a two-time presidential candidate, has failed to close in on 50 percent in polls and because Uribe began as a relative unknown in the contest. Colombia's electoral process requires a runoff should no candidate receive more than 50 percent of the vote.

Uribe also was the victim of an assassination attempt by FARC member and Chávez bodyguard Diego Serna Alzate. Serpa planned the March for Peace to Caguán as part of a political strategy to undermine the candidacies of his opponents, especially Uribe, by giving him the luxury of appearing tough while still refusing to change his soft position regarding negotiations with the FARC terrorists.

Despite the terrorist actions of the FARC, all candidates except Uribe, Colombian President Andrés Pastrana and Venezuelan President Chávez have refused to classify the FARC as terrorists. Pastrana has specifically said that it is impossible to call the FARC terrorists because they are "willing to negotiate." Chávez has been particularly vocal due to increasing evidence that his administration is directly linked to the FARC in Colombia, reiterating in Colombia on September 25 Pastrana's statement and stating that if they were terrorists, "then we wouldn't be able to negotiate anything with them, because with terrorists you don't dialogue but rather you have combat."

Liberal Senator Mauricio Jaramillo of Tolima explained how events would play out should Serpa become president of Colombia in the elections next March and April. The Senator is a close friend of party candidate Serpa and outlined the candidate's vision for dealing with the FARC. He rejected the idea of ending the distension zone, stating, "any process of peace requires a zone where you can discuss peace." He criticized how the FARC has used the zone but, like Serpa and other candidates desiring to continue the zone, had only one solution for how to control abuses: an international verification team, which the FARC has steadfastly discounted as a possibility.

He stated that the Commission of Notables' recommendations would not be considered by Congress until the next term of office, which would coincide with the presidency of Serpa, should he win the elections. At that point, efforts to convoke a Constitutional Assembly would be acceptable because, "A Constituional Assembly at the end of a government is absurd because no one knows if the next administration will agree with the accords that result in the Assembly."

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The blow is apparently solely in the realm of public opinion, however, because no major candidate, including Serpa, has changed their position on the peace process. Newsmax.com interviewed Liberal Senator Maurcio Jaramillo of Tolima about the peace process and the...
Sunday, 30 September 2001 12:00 AM
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