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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Talking Peace in Colombia

You’ve likely heard about the exciting buzz that has been permeating in Colombia. Yes, you guessed it; we’re talking about the announcement of the peace talks! We’ve decided to compile our own list of interesting sources –including the important voices of different civil society actors that are sometimes not heard –for our faithful readers to easily access.

We’ll begin with the voices of civil society and their takes on the peace process. Some of the main points brought up by these actors are:

  • Civil society inclusion and participation in the peace process

A Colombian victims’ group, MOVICE, made this official statement regarding the peace talks, in which they welcome peace and call for the inclusion of victims in the peace process, as well as call for a bilateral ceasefire.

 LAWGEF and USOC’s statement regarding the peace talks; warmly receiving the negotiations, the organizations call for the full inclusion of civil society, including women, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.

A critical explanation from La Silla Vacia of why civil society’s demand to be included in the actual peace negotiations is unfeasible.

  • The topic of a bilateral ceasefire

The Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos (CCEEU), a major coalition of Colombian NGOs, issued this official statement regarding the peace talks, calling for special attention to be given to the victims of the armed conflict and for both parties in the negotiations to refrain from escalating the violence during the actual negotiations.

Colombians for Peace issued an open letter addressed to President Santos, Timochenko of the FARC and Nicolas Rodriguez of the ELN calling for the parties to develop an agreement to respect international humanitarian law as a peace agreement is developed. The letter asks that the government stop bombing civilian buildings and that the FARC stop using landmines and give information about kidnapped persons. Colombians for Peace also emphasize four points to “humanize the conflict” which revolve around: ending the use of landmines, stopping child recruitment, stopping attacks on civilian buildings and establishing a truth commission. 

Next, we’ve compiled an assortment of editorials from Colombian newspapers and news magazines such as El Tiempo and Semana. 

An interview with León Valencia, director of the Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris, in which he analyzes statements from President Juan Manuel Santos and head commander of the FARC, Timoleón Jiménez, alias “Timochenko” regarding the peace talks. He notes that of particular interest is the FARC’s agreement to include laying down its weapons in the agenda. This piece in El Tiempo presents the argument that even when taking into consideration the frustrations of previous talks with the FARC, this time there's a real, genuine possibility that the negotiations will be successful

A special reconciliation issue from El Tiempo focuses on the need for broader social change in Colombian society, viewing the peace talks as a step on the pathway towards widespread reconciliation.

Experts and analysts weigh in at El Tiempo about the realistic outline of the Colombian peace negotiations without a negotiated ceasefire. 

This interesting analysis in Semana looks beyond the public and official announcements about the peace negotiations and instead, examines the important symbols that show why the public should be optimistic about these current peace talks.

Former paramilitary leaders say in an interview with Canal Capital that their peace process failed and caution the government to take into account many of the mistakes that occurred in their peace process when preparing to sit down to negotiate with the FARC.

In Portafolio, several leaders from different Colombian business sectors give their support to the upcoming peace talks, hopeful that if peace negotiations are successful it will be very good for the economy

Just in case those articles were a bit difficult to read in Spanish, we’ve included here some English-language coverage.

Scholar Milburn Line calls for the United States to do a better job in visibly supporting the peace talks. The article suggests it’s time for the U.S. to reexamine its foreign policy in Colombia, including the impact of Plan Colombia, and vigorously support peace negotiations that are more rewarding for U.S. foreign policy and legacy in the region.

Colombia Report’s editorial describes the peace process as a complex process that must incorporate all Colombians, with emphasis on the populations affected most by the conflict, in order to have a successful peace negotiation and sustainable peace throughout the country. It prioritizes systems and strategies for fully supported demobilization and long-term reintegration programs for those fighting.

This Colombia Reports op-ed suggests that the peace talks are “destined to fail” because, in its opinion, the conditions of these negotiations are no different than those of the past. It also argues that the FARC is a terrorist organization that the “desperate-to-please” Santos administration should not negotiate with.

This blog in the Financial Times examines the international politics and possible motives of the peace process, ultimately arguing that successful negotiations are win-win for all: Colombia will have achieved peace and President Santos stands to gain a potential boost in popularity; Cuba creates a reason for the U.S. to relax its embargo; Venezuela helps end gun-smuggling which is good for the region; and the U.S. Plan Colombia policy can be seen as a success and will save the U.S. money not supporting Colombia anymore.

A fairly optimistic article in Commentary Magazine that says peace talks have the potential to be successful this time around mainly due to the fact that “the FARC has been essentially defeated militarily” as a result of the crushing setbacks by the military under the Uribe Administration, forcing the FARC to now negotiate.

Finally, here are some very valuable experts in themes such as conflict resolution and regional security policy.

Hear actual voices from Colombian civil society in this live recording from the event,“The Colombian Peace Talks: Perspectives from Civil Society,” hosted by the Washington Office on Latin America and cosponsored by LAWGEF and other groups.

Colombia Calls is a great blog from long-time astute observer of the peace process and senior program officer for Latin America in the Center of Innovation at the U.S. Institute for Peace, Ginny Bouvier.

The International Crisis Group’s official report is an excellent, comprehensive analysis on the state of the armed conflict and peace negotiations.

The Washington Office on Latin America’s Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy, weighs in with reasons to be more optimistic with this peace process than with past attempts and some possible obstacles.

Aldo Civico, professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, has this insightful blog on “Engaged Anthropology, Peace Building, and Human Rights.”  Civico has served as a conflict resolution facilitator to international institutions, government, corporations and non-governmental organizations in Italy, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.

This post is cross-posted with the Latin America Working Group Education Fund's LAWGBlog. It was written by LAWG intern Chelsey Crim.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Long-form readings about Latin America in 2011: a list from Adam

Over the course of 2011, I read or saved a large pile of articles that were:

  • Somehow related to security in Latin America and the Caribbean;
  • Available at no cost on the Internet;
  • At least 2,500 words in length; and
  • Not written by the three organizations participating in the “Just the Facts” project. See the end of this post for a list of our own 2011 long-form writings about security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

After a lot of reading over the holiday break, here are links to my favorite 2011 long-form articles about security in the Americas.

Congratulations and thanks to the authors of all of these very informative pieces. Comments are open on this post, so feel free to add anything that I may have missed — I was on the road a lot last year.

  • Bruce Bagley, “El ‘efecto globo’ o por qué se está perdiendo la ‘Guerra contra las Drogas,’Razón Pública (Colombia), January 31, 2011. A veteran scholar of the “war on drugs” gives a thorough overview of this endeavor’s current state, its shortcomings and its unintended consequences. (Part 1) (Part 2)

  • Rory Carroll, “Drugs, murder and redemption: the gangs of Caracas,” The Guardian (UK), March 10, 2011. Carroll tells the stories of gang members in El Cementerio, a neighborhood in El Consejo, a city west of Caracas.

  • Jim Popkin, “Authorities in Awe of Drug Runners’ Jungle-Built, Kevlar-Coated Supersubs,” Wired, March 29, 2011. Worth a read, if only for the photos.

  • Perry Anderson, “Lula’s Brazil,” London Review of Books (UK), March 31, 2011. A fair and engrossing overview, from a political economy perspective, of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s eight years in office.

  • David Grann, “A Murder Foretold,” The New Yorker, April 4, 2011. An account of the bizarre conspiracy around the death of Guatemalan Rodrigo Rosenberg, which threatened the presidency of Álvaro Colom until investigators, especially the UN anti-impunity commission (CICIG), solved the case.

  • Patricio Zamorano, “Honduras: an urgent need for a new social pact,” Center for Democracy in the Americas, May 2011. The author observes the country’s peaceful “resistance” movement and determines that, in an atmosphere of extreme polarization, achieving reconciliation in post-coup Honduras will be a very complex task.

  • Sergio Arauz, Óscar Martínez, and Efren Lemus, “El Cártel de Texis,” El Faro (El Salvador), May 16, 2011. A remarkable investigative piece reveals a macabre alliance between narcotraffickers, gangs, police and politicians in northwestern El Salvador.

  • Karl Penhaul, “Inside the FARC: Colombia’s guerilla fighters,” Al Jazeera, May 30, 2011. The veteran war reporter, the first in several years to find a way to embed with Colombia’s FARC, finds a guerrilla group that remains deadly, but on the run and badly hurt by the Colombian military’s air superiority.

  • Kevin Casas-Zamora, “The Travails of Development and Democratic Governance in Central America,” The Brookings Institution, June 2011. While exploring Central America’s grave institutional, political and security shortcomings, Casas determines that Central America has still made important progress since the 1980s.

  • Max Chafkin, “A Constant Feeling of Crisis,” Inc., June 2011. Based on interviews with some of the country’s wealthy entrepreneurs, the author finds that despite its booming economy, Argentina is a difficult place to do business.

  • Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez, “La raíz de la violencia,” Nexos (Mexico), June 1, 2011. An exhaustive but clear look at violence trends in Mexico. The author concludes that “Mexico now needs to focus its efforts on reducing violence, even if this means directing less resources to fighting international drug trafficking.”

  • Nik Steinberg, “The Monster and Monterrey: The Politics and Cartels of Mexico’s Drug War,” The Nation, June 13, 2011. A Human Rights Watch researcher looks at the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Mexico’s principal industrial city.

  • La telaraña de los ‘paras’ en Urabá,” Verdad Abierta (Colombia), June 14, 2011. The results of an investigation of how paramilitary groups in northwestern Colombia became big landholders, allied themselves with politicians, and even set up foundations that received international aid — while simultaneously massacring and displacing populations and trafficking drugs.

  • Daniel Wilkinson, “Death and Drugs in Colombia,” The New York Review of Books, June 23, 2011. A Human Rights Watch researcher’s review of a book by Claudia López offers one of the best overviews in English of paramilitary power and Álvaro Uribe’s presidency in Colombia.

  • Damien Cave, “Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North,” The New York Times, July 6, 2011. A look at demographic, economic and security reasons why Mexican migration to the United States has dropped sharply. I like the scrolling interactive feature in the left column.

  • Para que los hechos no se repitan,” Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Honduras, July 8, 2011. While finding fault on all sides, the commission’s worthwhile report finds that an illegal military coup did take place on June 28, 2009, and that an alarming number of human rights abuses have followed.

  • Richard Marosi, “Inside the Cartel,” The Los Angeles Times, July 24-28, 2011. A four-part look, based on DEA investigations, at how Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel “moves drugs into Southern California and across the United States.” (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)

  • Violence and Politics in Venezuela,” International Crisis Group, August 17, 2011. The report raises concerns about what worsening organized crime, proliferating small arms, deteriorating justice institutions and a polarizing political climate bode for Venezuela’s future.

  • Vanda Felbab-Brown, “Calderón’s Caldron,” The Brookings Institution, September 2011. Focusing on three zones, the author evaluates the Mexican government’s frustrated attempts to deal with organized crime, and suggests some strategic shifts.

  • María Teresa Ronderos, “La fiebre minera se apoderó de Colombia,” Semana (Colombia), September 6, 2011. Mining companies have requested 22,000 exploration and exploitation titles, covering one-fifth of Colombia’s territory. In eight years, the Álvaro Uribe government granted 9,000 of them. (Though it’s not 2,500 words, see also this June report on illegal mining in Madre de Dios, Peru, by Frank Bajak of the Associated Press.)

  • Keeping Haiti Safe: Police Reform,” International Crisis Group, September 8, 2011. A diagnosis of Haiti’s National Police, which is undergoing a slow, halting reform amid official calls to restore the army that was abolished in the mid-1990s.

  • Xavier Albó, “El Alto in Flux,” Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America, Fall 2011. A look at life and politics in the sprawling majority-Aymara city that overlooks — and is now larger than — La Paz, Bolivia.

  • A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody,” No More Deaths, September 21, 2011. A disturbing report based on interviews of thousands of migrants deported from the Border Patrol’s Arizona sector (PDF).

  • Neither Rights Nor Security,” Human Rights Watch, November 9, 2011. An indictment of the Mexican government’s security policies, which have so far brought few improvements in security or the rule of law. A useful guide to Mexico’s security and justice institutions, which in HRW’s view are not reforming quickly enough.

  • Alma Guillermoprieto, “In the New Gangland of El Salvador,” The New York Review of Books, November 10, 2011. The veteran reporter tries to explain the country’s vexing maras phenomenon.

  • Juanita León, “Santos les está dando a los militares lo que Uribe nunca se atrevió a concederles,” La Silla Vacía (Colombia), November 16, 2011. Discussing several legislative initiatives that would make it harder to hold the military accountable for human rights abuses, León paints a portrait of troubled civil-military relations in Colombia under President Juan Manuel Santos.

  • Gustavo Gorriti and Romina Mella, “Entrevista a ‘Artemio’ en el Huallaga,” IDL Reporteros (Peru), December 6, 2011. Reporters interview a founding member of Peru’s Shining Path insurgency, who still leads a small guerrilla column deep in the jungle. “Artemio” admits his faction’s defeat and says he is willing to negotiate a truce.

  • Mattathias Schwartz, “A Massacre in Jamaica,” The New Yorker, December 12, 2011. A narrative of the U.S.-supported May 2010 offensive against Kingston drug trafficker Christopher “Dudus” Coke, in which Jamaican security forces killed and abused civilians.

Here are some 2011 long-form articles by organizations participating in the Just the Facts project.