Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe lashed out against his successor Juan Manuel Santos Monday over the government's decision to begin peace talks with the country's largest rebel group FARC. Before President Santos confirmed Monday that his government had begun "exploratory negotiations" of peace with the FARC, Uribe publicly wondered, "what is it that they are going to negotiate? Are they going to negotiate terrorism with the rural development? Can they negotiate the tax policy with terrorism? Can they negotiate human rights with terrorism? Are we going to negotiate with the fathers of violations of human rights, which are these terrorists? This is inadmissible, this is a democratic country." – Colombia Reports
Dominant Social Theme: FARC negotiations need to continue.
Free-Market Analysis: Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is picking up his war of words with the policies of current President Juan Manuel Santos – but to focus on personalities is to misread the state of affairs in Colombia.
Colombia is perhaps the region's third largest economy and a major free-market success story. But Uribe believes that his successor is not merely pursuing a strategy of failure with the FARC narco-guerrilla movement; he also believes that Santos is taking a much less effective economic approach to government generally.
This is a serious expression of a deep philosophical divide. To report or imply – as some of the local and even global press have done – that Uribe's concerns may stem at least in part from personal pique at being out of office is to do these concerns an injustice.
It is not a personal but a policy discussion. And it has to do with whether or not sovereign governments should negotiate directly with non-governmental adversaries ... and also with how governments should inter-relate with the larger marketplace.
Terrorism first. Governments DO negotiate with elements that are considered "terroristic" but often these are seen within the context of kidnappings and other fairly ephemeral occurrences.
What Uribe is objecting to is a fundamental change of procedure when it comes to how Colombia is treating its FARC adversaries. He has stated in the past that he finds the Santos administration's perspective to be unproductive.
Apparently, the Santos administration has decided not to pressure FARC leaders militarily. The military option is not finished entirely, as Santos is still bringing guns to bear on the cadres themselves. But Uribe was focused on attacking the FARC brain-trust and anything else is a fundamental policy mistake.
He also believes that Santos is likely to begin to jail those in the military OPPOSED to terrorism while placing those in FARC in positions of power. Here's some more from the article excerpted above:
While speaking at a public event in the city of Barranquilla, Uribe accused Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre of setting a bad example for Colombians and alleged that the country's highest prosecutor prefers the guerrilla leader "Timochenko" in Congress as opposed to involved in terrorism.
"It alarmed me to hear the Prosecutor General say that he prefers Timochenko in Congress than Timochenko shooting. It hurt me and I say this with all the respect for the Prosecutor General. This is what we are achieving in Colombia -- permissiveness, complacency with terrorism," said the former president according to news site El Universal.
"Prosecution has the obligation to bring these criminals to jail, [...] and the prosecutor offering indulgence to terrorists, this is a bad example to the country. This is not the justice that we want," said Uribe.
As the article points out, Uribe believes that negotiations cannot exist so long as criminality is present as well. While in office he made sure that Colombia and much of the rest of the world believed that FARC was a terrorist organization – and dealt with them as such. "With Santos as acting president, this idea is receding."
The economic issues are intertwined with the military ones. Uribe has pointed out the Santos peace process appears to favor the re-election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is also sympathetic to FARC elements.
Santos has been gradually establishing better ties with Venezuela. Under Uribe those ties were badly frayed, again as a matter of policy.
There are those in politics and media that may misread Uribe's sentiments and believe they are motivated by personal or ideological issues. Again, this may be a misreading.
Uribe is a serious man who has moved in the top corridors of power. His regime was powered by serious philosophical beliefs much as Ronald Reagan's was in the US or Thatcher in the UK.
Conclusion: Such individuals often have strong effects on their countries and their influence can be powerful indeed.
Following is a message that Uribe (pictured below) has posted in several places regarding his concerns about Santos's direction.
Generals in Negotiation with Terrorism
The government has allowed our soldiers and police officers to be presented as equals when compared to terrorists.
Finally, the government has announced what it had been denying: the participation of retired Generals of the Republic [of Colombia] in the group of negotiators dealing with FARC.
I feel great respect and gratitude towards Generals Jorge Enrique Mora and Oscar Naranjo. However, I cannot hide my concern when I see our former commanders in negotiations with terrorism.
Such decision accepts the wrong thesis that Colombia has not had a narco-terrorist challenge against democracy and the people in general, but a war between armed forces and the guerrilla, which, when made equals as legitimate contenders, calls them to overcome conflict through negotiation between them.
Many analysts, who have ignored the suffering of the citizens, who believe that the FARC does not kidnap or is no terrorist, have reduced this painful violence to a social and political confrontation, expressed as the combat of soldiers and police officers against heroic guerrillas.
But the issue is different: Whereas the guerrilla has been an executioner that kills and kidnaps, the armed forces fulfill the constitutional function of protection of the citizens. To sit them to negotiate together has allowed FARC to say they are equals, legitimate antagonists.
The sign has practical effects that transcend symbolism and abstraction. What will soldiers, policemen, sub-officers and officers say when they see their commanders negotiating with whom until yesterday were considered terrorists and keep acting as such?
To involve the generals in this negotiation process, which is accepted to be done without a cease fire from the terrorists, introduces another factor of disorientation into soldiers and policemen, who will not know if to protect their lives and the citizens' or to step aside and concentrate in the expectation of the negotiation carried out by their former commanders.
The President of the Republic got the Retirees Association to accept the participation of the generals, previously decided by the government, with names already defined, the fact that it had previously denied it for a time notwithstanding.
But when the communiqué from the Retirees (ACORE) is read, it can be found they are in disagreement with the impunity and eligibility of the terrorists and approve to participate on the table in order to protect their rights. And they may be right in fearing the negotiations can harm our soldiers and policemen even further, since the so called "Framework for Peace" conditions the solution of so many injustices affecting them to an agreement with the guerrillas. In order to better understand, let us take a look at this paragraph of the Framework: "...a statutory law may be able to authorize that, WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF A PEACE AGREEMENT, differential treatment is given to the various armed illegal groups that have been part of the internal armed conflict as well as for the AGENTS OF THE ESTATE, in regards to their participation in said conflict"
The Framework for Peace, as well as the Havana Agreement, causes us a valid motive for concern: government has allowed our soldiers and policemen, on one hand, and the terrorists on the other, to be treated as equals.
And what will the generals think of legitimating as contradictors and favor with impunity the very same terrorists they were fighting the day before in order to protect the citizens?
And what will generals think about negotiating with those who continue to fight against police officers and soldiers, whose lives are as valuable as the civilians?
Let forgiveness not be confused with impunity. Forgiveness is the absence of hatred and spirit of vengeance, it's required for conciliation. Impunity is the bad example that encourages the continuation of violence due to lack of punishment.
I read this week: "We all want peace. We differ in how to achieve it. We prefer to disarticulate terrorism to award it with impunity and eligibility."
Disarticulation of terrorism was what Generals Mora and Naranjo commanded. This disarticulation implied authority without ambiguity, generous reinsertion without impunity (53 thousand terrorists were reinserted) and social politics to avoid recruitment of new youngsters into criminal groups.
Disarticulation [is] very different from military radicalism with which many proselytes of this uncertain dialogue confuse it.
Really, how many of those who have supported this negotiation and its conditions would have accepted to negotiate with Al-Qaeda under terms other than submission to justice?
And, what's the difference between the Colombian narco-guerrillas, protected by Chávez who, today, a month away from elections appears as peace composer, and the sinister Al-Qaeda?