This week, Colombia begins a new round of talks, the third, with the guerrillas calling themselves the FARC’s Central General Staff, the main dissident group of the Havana peace signed with the defunct FARC in 2016. In this case, the talks will be held in Bogota and will last until the 20th of this month. The issues that have been advanced to be discussed between the peace delegations of the State and the illegal armed group will be the environment and the most sensitive one: the definitive end of kidnappings.
Following the serious crisis that took place a couple of months ago, and which called into question the very existence of the dialogues, the State is putting on the table an imperative need that it had already presented to the guerrillas as a condition for continued negotiations: the freedom of hostages and the end of the criminal practice of kidnapping.
Last November the guerrillas left the table after months of clashes with the army in the Micay canyon, compounded by a sectoral suspension of the agreed bilateral ceasefire. President Gustavo Petro, who was the target of all criticism, publicly accused the insurgency of an explosives attack on the military deployed in the area to prevent the transformation of the local economy, currently based mainly on coca cultivation, towards one based on legal activities.
The Colombian president admitted in those hard weeks that the political negotiation initiated with this illegal armed group had perhaps been “premature”: they had been requested to leave the territory peacefully and give way to the authorities, who planned to “transform the whole Micay canyon into a legal economy through the action of the Colombian State”; however, the conditions for this to happen were not in place.
Finally, the Minister of Defense, Ivan Velasquez, questioned at the time the relevance of maintaining the bilateral ceasefire, given that the guerrilla had decided to leave the table. The guerrillas accused the Minister of not following the President’s line of pacification, initiating a tension with the Minister of Defense that still continues today.
The State sets conditions
With the clear will to show firmness, after a barrage of criticism not only from political opponents, the State has marked its red lines in order to guarantee the progress of the negotiations with the Colombian guerrilla. With regard to this, the head of the State peace delegation, Camilo Gonzalez Posso, has spoken of the importance of putting a permanent end to the practice of kidnappings by the armed group, and announced, in conversation with Caracol Radio, the recent release of ten people held hostage.
“In this ceasefire period we have had releases of different types. The list that had been established was of 12 kidnapped people, of whom three have been released for economic purposes, and seven for other purposes. A total of 10 people who have regained their freedom”, the head of the peace delegation assured the Colombian radio station.
Likewise, Gonzalez also announced that in this new round of dialogues the unilateral ceasefire and its extension will be discussed, since next January 15 the agreement between the parties expires.
In search of a regional agenda
Another of the announcements about this new meeting between the peace delegations is that the parties will seek to establish a regional agenda and, in this sense, a tour of different territories of the country has been agreed upon. The objective of both the government and the armed band is to be able to define agreements that benefit the communities by an immediate application, so as not to wait for the end of the conflict.
“Not only in Cauca, but Catatumbo, Magdalena Medio, Caquetá, Putumayo, Bajo Cauca Antioqueño and Sur de Bolívar. This will be included in a complete plan of dialogue with the people”, clarified Gonzalez Posso.
The end of extortion and the repercussions of the conflict on the civilian population, essentially in rural areas, will also be considered in the dialogues and on the regional agenda, in a year that will be key for the future of these talks and for the Total Peace plan advocated by the Colombian government.