Why is this man crying? The 2006 aid request
Feb 082005

Do you feel lonely? Awash in self-pity? As though the whole world is plotting against you?

You’re not alone. This affliction seems to be common among those involved in the Colombian government’s negotiations with paramilitary groups.

  • “I look once again, to my left and to my right, in front and behind, and I don’t understand the solitude in which the international community has left us.” – AUC leader Salvatore Mancuso, at the demobilization of the Mojana Bloc in Sucre, 2/2/05

  • “The enormous solitude that has marked these months of arduous work has been very difficult to bear, and the attitude of an important sector of the international community remains troubling. … We are overthinking this issue. I have never seen such a heavily conditioned peace process.” – Sergio Caramagna, head of the OAS Mission in Support of the Peace Process (MAPP-OEA), quoted in El Tiempo, 11/10/04

  • “Even in the midst of this legal confusion, the solitude of the process, the disinformation, the opportunism, the professional discrediting, the incomprehension, the hypocrisy … the movement of peasant self-defense groups will end this year by turning in an enormous arsenal.” – leadership of the Central Bolívar Bloc paramilitaries, 11/24/04
  • “I basically think that there was a political plot against the government; the negotiations for a Truth, Justice and Reparations bill were broken unilaterally just as the Cartagena donors’ summit was occurring, in a deliberate effort to put the government up against the wall and to portray us as favoring the paramilitary groups and supporting impunity. … What took place here was a political ambush against the government.” – Luis Carlos Restrepo, Colombian government high commissioner for peace, 2/4/05

A recurring theme of the paramilitary negotiation process has been the AUC leaders’ efforts to portray themselves as "victims," their good intentions spurned by skeptics who have withheld full support to the process. The best response to this ploy comes from conservative matriarch Ayn Rand: "Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent."

Self-pity alone is not going to win support for these negotiations. Participants should do less wallowing and more listening to the international donors and others who have kept their distance from the negotiations.

These would-be supporters have indicated the basic conditions the talks should meet in order to assuage their very real concerns about impunity and the persistence of paramilitarism. If there is no movement to meet these conditions, the negotiators’ “solitude” will only get worse.

5 Responses to “Pity the paramilitary process participants”

  1. David Holiday Says:

    Now are you going to give us your version of what happened in Cartagena, or did I miss that?

    Sergio Caramagna. He would complain. He had it so easy (relatively) in Nicaragua with the U.S.-funded demobilization of the contras. Oh, but he still complained then, too. Let me know if you have a take on him. Not the most objective person, in my experience.

  2. jcg Says:

    Well…to put it in a few words without overstating previous issues…such solitude that the AUC and the others complain about, without a firm committment to the cease-fire and without the completition and acceptance of the necessary legal framework on their part, remains as something mostly self-inflicted.

  3. Adam Isacson Says:

    On Cartagena: I think peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo’s meltdown last Friday speaks volumes. The Colombian government found itself trying to make the case that there is “no armed conflict” in the country, during a week in which large-scale FARC attacks on military targets dominated the headlines. The Europeans stood firm on that and on their insistence on a legal framework. The NY Times editorial and the letter from key members of the U.S. Congress dealt well-timed blows to the Uribe government’s efforts to win support for paramilitary demobilizations with a weaker legal framework.

    Declarations of support for a tougher legal framework also came from representatives of Colombia’s main industrialists’ association (ANDI) and the very mainstream (some would say center-right) Confederation of Colombian NGOs. Particularly on the question of the paramilitary talks, the Colombian government (and the U.S. government) saw itself isolated.

    Of course, the final declaration did offer Uribe a stronger show of support for his security policies, stronger than the July 2003 London declaration. However, as Jorge Rojas from CODHES writes, the declaration was by no means a “blank check” for the Uribe government. “As a diplomat said at the end of the meeting: ‘The main headline in the Colombian press should be the civil-society consensus in Cartagena, because it is a message of good sense, pluralism and democracy in the midst of polarization and war.’”

    Regarding Caramagna: I’m not going to bad-mouth him, though he certainly doesn’t seem to have a lot of fans among people who followed the contra demobilizations. However, like many groups following the current process I’m perplexed and a bit disappointed by the role the OAS mission has been playing. A real verification mission should involve dispassionately documenting problems with the process – such as non-observance of a cease fire – and lobbying for improvements. Instead, Caramagna’s MAPP-OEA mission has largely run defense for the Uribe government, brushing off critics and issuing reports that resemble public-relations materials in support of the process. Compare OAS reports issued in May (PDF format) and August (MS Word format) with ONUSAL’s much more hard-hitting reporting on El Salvador’s process a decade ago.

  4. Randy Paul Says:

    Mancuso has shed enough crocodile tears to create a water park.

    Shame on him.

  5. David Holiday Says:

    Thanks. Good, diplomatic answer about Caramagna and OAS.

    In my own experience, documented in the 1994 HRW report on post-war contra killings, I found the OEA-CIAV (Caramagna was No. 2 in the mission) to be pretty reliably unreliable, mislabeling a series of killings in Jalapa, for example, as a “massacre”, when the reality was far more complex, according to CIAV personnel on the scene.

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