Colombia: FARC agrees to peace dialogue
Colombia's FARC guerrillas agreed in principle Oct. 28 to meet with 150 prominent Colombian intellectual and political figures to discuss a release of hostages. The meeting had been suggested in a Sept. 11 letter by the group, which includes relatives of hostages. In a response posted to the Internet, the FARC stated: "This letter is the beginning of an exchange to discuss the issues surrounding a political end to the conflict, the humanitarian exchange and peace... Eternal war cannot be the destiny of the country." The statement, dated October 16 and datelined "Mountains of Colombia," was signed by the group's seven-man General Secretariat.
In the Sept. 11 letter, the signatories asked the FARC to engage in an "exchange of epistles" to "allow us to identify the terms to set an agenda to clarify the route toward an understanding regarding a hostage exchange." (Vanguardia Liberal, Bucaramanga, Oct. 29; CNN, AFP, La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 28)
Despite this tentative move towards peace, the government is pressing its offensive against the guerillas. The armed forces announced Oct. 29 that Álvaro Alfonso Serpa, AKA "Felipe Rincón", a FARC leader who had participated in the peace dialogue with the government between 1999 and 2002, was killed along with five guerillas in an attack on their camp in the village of San Juan de Losada, on the border of Meta and Caquetá departments. (El Universal, Venezuela, Oct. 29)
Also Oct. 29, Vice President Francisco Santos called the FARC a "paper tiger" with little control of the nation's territory. "They have really been diminished to the point where we can say they are a minimal threat to Colombian security," Santos said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Tokyo. "After six years of going after them, reducing their income and promoting reinsertion [demobilization] of most of their members, they look like a paper tiger." (Bloomberg, Oct. 29)