“Don’t give up. We are with you,” by Claudia LÃ³pez, El Tiempo, December 4, 2007
Several things have become clear from the evolution of what until now we called “the Humanitarian Accord.” There will be no Accord, nor will it be Humanitarian. Before the FARC’s criminal and inhumane capacities, the only road to recover the hostages alive is through a political negotiation. The Colombian government will not allow any political negotiation, and it sabotaged the one that Venezuela was carrying out. In consequence, the hostages will keep dying in the jungle as long as the FARC are the captors and Ãlvaro Uribe is president of Colombia. Perhaps Ãngrid Betancourt will be freed, because France is willing to carry out a political negotiation and the Colombian government is interested in getting out from under French pressure. If France does not manage to recover Ãngrid, it will be because of a FARC deception and/or a new Colombian government sabotage of a political negotiation.
Piedad CÃ³rdoba’s and President ChÃ¡vez’s efforts achieved in four months what the Colombian government was unable to achieve in six years. The poorly named “Peace Commissioner” has been unable to establish direct communication with the FARC Secretariat, or to have a meeting with a negotiator authorized by them, or to set up a plan for reaching an accord, or to involve other countries in the negotiation, or to obtain proofs of life for the hostages, or to gain a commitment to free some as a step toward a political negotiation to free the rest. That others – different from the Colombian government – have achieved this in four months demonstrates that it is possible to achieve it if one has will and clarity that a political negotiation is taking place. A political negotiation that will bring the benefit of a liberation of living hostages, and carry the cost of a political “oxygenation” for the FARC.
The government, which has neither the will nor the negotiating capacity, ended these efforts because they ran the risk of being successful. If they achieved what they had negotiated, they would have made evident that it was a lack of political will and negotiating capacity on the part of the government – and not just the criminal and inhumane stubbornness of the FARC – that had impeded the Accord. For that reason, the efforts were gradually sabotaged by the government. First, by making communications and meetings with facilitators more difficult; later, by imposing new conditions (the government started out by reiterating that it would not give territorial or military advantages, and ended up adding that it would not allow political “protagonism” either); afterward, by calling an end to the facilitation in a way that would best assure that it would be inviable to resume it in the future; later, by intensifying military operations to make difficult the sending of the proofs of life; and, finally, intercepting them so that they would not arrive in the facilitators’ hands, and jailing their messengers as terrorists.
Trust between the parties, of course, has been thrown to the floor. Relations with Venezuela are in critical condition. ChÃ¡vez knows that they used him. The FARC, who have always insisted that the government wants no accord and only seeks military advantages to kill them, ended up with more reasons to confirm this position. Just as the FARC have lied so many times, at this opportunity it was evident that the government has lied to all those to whom it said that it is willing to seek an accord. The government has never had any will to enter into a political negotiation. It has managed the situation and allowed intermediaries to participate in order to diminish international pressure, trusting that one after another would burn out, with its own help. All the while seeking to liberate or kill the hostages militarily, in operations whose political cost would be borne completely by the FARC and not the government, which means that this would be more politically convenient for them than any negotiation. These crude lessons are those that we have to have in mind from this point forward.
To all the hostages and their families, my total solidarity and my certainty that, though we are a minority, we will keep struggling, without rest, for their lives and liberty.