In a video released Saturday, the top commander of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, asked the incoming-president, Juan Manuel Santos, for peace talks. Cano looks beaten: the white insect-nest hair might make you take a second look, confusing him for the boogey-man loitering at the corner. In the video, he does rant like the boogey-man. Not surprising, earlier this month, the army captured alias Araceli Guerrero, who was in charge of Cano’s security. The FARC’s number one, Manuel Marulanda, died of natural causes, and the FARC’s number two, Raul Reyes, died in Ecuador during an aerial attack. Cano is feeling the heat.
Cano said, “All the guerrillas know that since 1964 we have said we need to converse in order to find political ways out of the situations that are generating armed confrontations.”
Is that so?
On January 7, 1999, President Andres Pastrana demilitarized 26,000 square miles in southern Colombia as a condition for peace talks with the FARC. The DMZ became known as “El Caguan” because the closest town was San Vicente del Caguan. Pastrana called this place “a peace laboratory.”
It took almost 14 months – way, way too long—for Pastrana to end the abuses for which the DMZ was really being used: From the beginning, the FARC specified the location of the DMZ because they wanted to gain total control of the Plains of Yará, strategic for drugs and arms trafficking, as it connects to the region’s main roads. Deserters spoke of AK-47’s dropping from the sky. Satellite photos showed an increase in drug cultivation in southern Colombia and the construction of jet ways for drug trafficking. Aerial photos also showed the construction of a concentration camp intended for kidnapped civilians, police and army. Venezuelan emissaries of Hugo Chavez were followed to the DMZ where they were seen speaking to the FARC’s heads. Three men from the Irish Republican Army were arrested at El Dorado Airport in Bogotá and charged with teaching the FARC how to plant bombs in cities. The FARC’s response? Teach us? We taught them, we have a spiritual solidarity with the compañeros from the IRA and the ETA.
Do we not remember any of this? Why is it that Santos’s VP, Angelino Garzon, is, in fact, seeking a rapprochment with the FARC? Garzon asked that the FARC “set free all boys and girls who have been forcibly recruited and tell the population: this violence is senseless, this violence will not continue.”
Well, Mr. Garzon, let me remind you: during the “El Caguan” DMZ the FARC doubled its recruitment of child soldiers to an estimated 30,000. Every kid in the 26,000 square miles, in fact every kid in southern Colombia, was expected to report to duty. In reality, say the social workers, every kid wanted to show up at the training camp because there were no other options for them. The FARC training camp was, basically, the only “schooling” available, that guaranteed “a job.”
We’ve been through this. Do we have to repeat the Pastrana “peace laboratory”? President Uribe is leaving office with a more than 60 percent approval rating, and most, if not all, of Uribe’s popularity is as a result of the army’s success against the FARC.
The citizens of Colombia have spoken—no negotiations with the FARC. Let’s build schools and create jobs instead of wasting time with the rantings of a madman.