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Colombia: The Real Reasons Uribe Sabotaged FARC Deal

Uribe says his piece, in a 2015 file photo
Uribe says his piece, in a 2015 file photo
José E. Mosquera


BOGOTÁ — The Democratic Center, a right-wing political party led by Colombia's former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, was vehemently opposed to the peace deal with the country's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The accord to end nearly a half-century of conflict, which was ultimately rejected in the surprise victory of the "No" camp in the Oct. 2 referendum, actually would have taken into account many of the concerns of Uribe's camp. But the Democratic Center (DC) has concealed its true intentions and cynically sought to manipulate the public.

It's actually quite easy to understand DC's political strategy. The party wants to gain time by offering proposals impossible to implement so that it can blame the government and FARC if they fail to reach a deal.

Uribe, and the land owners his party represents, have no real interest in the peace process. They oppose three crucial aspects of negotiations with FARC: land reforms, justice for the victims and FARC's participation in politics. The party's proposals are just arguments to hide its real objective — to tangle up the peace process with lies.

When Uribe was president from 2002 to 2010, he denied that there was an armed conflict in Colombia and termed the people it had displaced as "internal migrants." This was the period that had the most forced displacements and land grabs.

It's the land, stupid

A peace deal with FARC would have carved out so-called Peasant Reservation Zones for the poor and required rural land registers to be updated. This was a dangerous proposition for DC, which opposes the restitution of land. It argues that the present owners had bought their properties in good faith. The party wants the ownership of millions of acres of land legalized despite the document forgeries and the intimidation and murder that led to the property being appropriated in the first place. Much land was bought and sold under pressure from paramilitary outfits and death squads.

The Democratic Center also opposes a progressive property tax and rural reforms that would help the poor and build roads in the countryside. DC does not want any reforms that benefit peasants or that undermines the interests of big landowners.

The second major reason why DC opposes the deal is because it calls for a justice system that would correct past abuses and offer compensation to victims. In doing so, the deal would expose alliances with organized crime that have been forged in the country; it would shed light on the theft of land and it would recognize death squad victims who had been misidentified as guerrillas. DC, instead, prefers a system similar to the one devised previously for paramilitary groups, which for years granted impunity to criminals.

The party also opposes FARC's possible participation in politics. DC wants FARC leaders to go to prison. This is not a serious proposal. Why would a rebel group that has been fighting for more than 50 years, and hasn't yet been defeated, sign a deal that would imprison its leaders? Only a deal that ensures the integration of FARC leaders in public life and democratic mechanisms has any real chance of actually working. Anything else is just a populist fantasy unrelated to any real search for peace.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Vulnerable Are The Russians In Crimea?

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, and Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters with smoke rising above it after a Ukrainian missile strike.

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

This article was updated Sept. 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram.

But Sokolov was seen on state television on Tuesday, just one day after Ukraine claimed he'd been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the admiral partaking in a video conference with top admirals and chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, though there was no verification of the date of the event.

Moscow has been similarly obtuse following other reports of missiles strikes this month on Crimea. Russian authorities have declared that all missiles have been intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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