Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | February 21, 2012

Ten Years Since El Caguán

Yesterday marked the 10-year anniversary of the end of the last peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC; it marked the end of the demilitarized zone known as “El Caguán,” in which the FARC held control over 42,000 square kilometers spread out over four municipalities in southern Colombia.

Last month, the FARC head known as alias “Timochenko” sent a letter to President Santos stating his “urgency to talk.” He asked to “take up again the agenda that remained pending in El Caguán.” (The letter’s personal, passionate and flowery tone revealed much about Timochenko’s inner personality.)

Academics from the Peace Institute of the Congress of the United States, Georgetown University, Los Andes University, and CINEP have come up with a report titled “Ten years after El Caguán: some lessons to come closer to peace.”

Some of the suggestions are:

Do not negotiate in the middle of hostilities. There must be an absolute cease-fire.

There must be an agenda that addresses not just the guerrilla and the armed groups, but all factors of violence, and most importantly, drug trafficking. It should also address property titles and the use of the land, rural development, the environment, and social and political inclusion.

The agenda should also address truth and justice and reparation, and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants.

However, the agenda should be less broad than it was at El Caguán.

Civil society should be a key player. The media has an immense responsibility to report with a balanced view.

Women must be more involved in the talks.

The international community must be involved as well, although its participation must be limited to what the Colombian players want.

Asked whether it was time for peace talks again, Marta Lucía Ramírez, former Colombian minister of defense, said, “… It’s true that Santos wants to maintain the open door of dialogue and experience from the last 10 years, and the Caguán peace negotiations have taught us that a politically, economically and strategically weakened guerrilla force would be willing to negotiate. But this moment has not arrived yet. Santos has asked the FARC to the release the people they have had kidnapped for more than 15 years to prove their will to negotiate; we are still waiting.”

Silke Pfeiffer, Colombia/Andes project director for the International Crisis Group, said, “… Negative experiences and myths associated with the 1998-2002 Caguán negotiations should not distract from seeking new political solutions in the radically different context of today. … ”

Marc Chernick, associate professor and director of the master’s program in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University, said, “… President Santos recognizes that the military strategy has reached a point of diminishing returns and has repeatedly raised the possibility of direct talks with the guerrillas. At the same time, FARC commander Timoleón Jiménez, ‘Timochenko,’ has reiterated the position set forth by his predecessor, Alfonso Cano, that the FARC wants direct negotiations without preconditions. The FARC has also stated in correspondence with Colombianos y Colombianas por la Paz that it is willing to release the remaining hostages, which means that they will soon meet one of Santos’s key preconditions for talks.”

Adam Isacson, senior associate for the Regional Security Policy Program at the Washington Office on Latin America, said, “… Those 10 years have seen a major military buildup and a war of attrition that has reduced the FARC’s ranks by more than half and killed four of its top leaders. Still, the persistence of guerrilla attacks throughout the country shows that the conflict is nowhere near ending on the battlefield. It could easily last at least another decade and cost thousands more lives. This makes a negotiated solution a rational and desirable choice. The FARC’s military weakness and political discreditation mean, though, that the group no longer has any hope of negotiating the ambitious reforms foreseen in the 1999-2002 agenda, which included weighty topics like justice reform, land reform, Colombia’s ‘economic model’ and energy policy. Instead, battered and without a large base of support, the FARC will have to settle for an accord that allows its leaders some sort of ‘graceful exit’ from nearly 50 years of violence.”

There are those who believe there are all ready contacts forming between the government and the FARC towards future talks—although the government denies it.


Former President Andres Pastrana offers his view on the possibility of peace talks.

Academic (and expert on Communism) Medófilo Medina offers his view.

The FARC offer their view.

The FARC’s Path with Timochenko as leader.


  1. […] establishing a long elusive peace in the South American nation. Given the disastrous outcome of the last attempt, which took place between 1999 and 2002 and saw the rebel group manipulate the conditions of the […]

  2. […] establishing a long elusive peace in the South American nation. Given the disastrous outcome of the last attempt, which took place between 1999 and 2002 and saw the rebel group manipulate the conditions of the […]

  3. This is a great opportunity and I hope something comes of it. I was in the Caguan 10 years ago just after the previous negotiations fell through, it was a pretty crazy time. Actually, I would like to see the other armed groups stay out of this (Carlos Castano was the main disruptive factor last time) as well as foreign influences. The news media put continuous negative pressure on the previous negotiations, reporting every small development in a highly negative way. I would prefer to see low key negotiations, but accompanied by a cease fire as you suggest. Also, the Justice and Peace process has already established a framework for demobilization of the AUC, that should help FARC members to safely demobilize. This can also be accompanied by the formation of a group like the UP, although this time there has to be some kind of guarantee that demobilized guerrillas won’t be massacred. The reinsertion program has been successful on that score, so all the pieces are in place to negotiate a real demobilization and a real peace.

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