FARC factionalizing amid peace talks?

With representatives from the Colombian government and FARC rebels currently engaged in “phase two” of the peace talks in Oslo, conservative politicians in Colombia warn of evidence that factions of the guerrilla army in the country’s south are not willing to participate in the peace process. “We urge the government and the guerrillas to say if the Southern Mobile Bloc and the Teofilo Forero Mobile Column are in the peace process, because they are still recruiting and trafficking drugs,” said Sen. Carlos Ramiro Chavarro. Conservative Party president Efrain Cepeda. “The dialogue needs to be with 100% of the guerrillas to be legitimate.” The agenda of “phase two” of the negotiations focuses on five overlapping points: agrarian reform, guarantees of political participation, ending the armed conflict, drug trafficking, and the rights of victims.

Critics on the left, meanwhile, are questioning the government’s commitment to the peace process. Milburn Line of the Institute Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego warned that a “negative peace” is the likely goal of the process. “Negative peace is just ending the fighting,” he said. “Positive peace is actually addressing the causes of conflict.”

“I think negative peace is better than no peace at all,” Line argued. However, “if you can incorporate the larger causal parts of the conflict into the peace process then you have a stronger chance of that peace lasting and being sustainable,” he asserted. He emphasized that the talks have so far omitted the many voices of Colombian civil society. “One of the causes of conflict is exclusion,” he said. “I’m worried that the peace process in Colombia is only about the two warring parties. It’s not picking up the perspectives of Afro-Colombians, of women, of indigenous people, of trade unionists, of civil society more broadly.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has assured observers that the voices of minorities will be heard during the next stage of the peace process. Phase three of peace talks, which will address the implementation of a peace deal, is expected to start next month in Havana, Cuba. Colombian Presidents Belisario Betancur (1982-1986), Cesar Gaviria (1990-1994) and Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) each tried and failed to broker a lasting peace with the guerillas during their respective terms in office. (Colombia Reports, Colombia Reports, Oct. 26)