Peace and Secrecy in Colombia

Secret back-channel talks between the Colombian Government and FARC were revealed yesterday by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. The talks laid the groundwork for the opening of formal negotiations between the two sides, expected to begin in several weeks time. The Guardian reports that the agreement to open talks was preceded by a series of conciliatory moves by FARC in recent months including the release of military hostages and the ending of kidnapping for ransom. The government for its part amended the constitution to lay the legal groundwork for a peace process. These reciprocal moves will have served to assure both parties that the other party is both able and willing to deliver on commitments that it makes. As with the efforts to resolve the Sri Lankan and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts in the 1990s, there seems to have been some Norwegian involvement. The collapse in 2002 of an earlier peace process in Colombia fueled the argument that a negotiated settlement was not possible and has often been cited by those who argue against negotiation and advocate the defeat and destruction of groups such as FARC. Set alongside the efforts to engage the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Colombian process seems to be part of a broader return to the promise of negotiation and away from some of the more strident and uncompromising rhetoric of the War on Terror. The fact that formal negotiations were preceded by secret talks fits with a pattern evident in many conflict situations. Political leaders talk first in secret partly in order to mitigate the danger of disruption by those on both sides who are opposed to compromise.


About niallodoc

Senior Lecturer in the School of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway
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