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Why Colombia's Peace Process Was Destined To Self-Destruct

The FARC, a segment of which is now reneging on its peace-deal commitments, should never have been trusted in the first place, writes Colombian columnist Saúl Hernández.

Special forces in Bogota, Colombia
Special forces in Bogota, Colombia
Saúl Hernández

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — The only really surprising thing about the video of terrorist Iván Márquez announcing that the FARC — or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, as they were formerly known — will return to armed activity was that so many were surprised by it.

It's understandable, I suppose, that observers following developments from abroad could be caught off guard. But here in Colombia we'd all seen the flaws in the peace deal that the previous president, Juan Manuel Santos, negotiated and that many FARC guerrillas have ignored so they could pursue their criminal endeavors.

In fact, long before the fake peace was signed there were reports of FARC fighters simply changing their armbands to inflate the ELN (National Liberation Army), Colombia's other leftist insurgent army. Others abandoned the process to pursue illicit enterprises like drug trafficking or illegal mining, and many more simply kept their weapons, forming a strategic rearguard. It was a Plan B, in case they found in time that it would be very difficult to take the FARC to power by political means.

The Santos government termed these people "dissidents," and even invented the absurd euphemism of "residual organized armed groups." Such terms were meant to soften or negate the reality that these were the armed wing of an organization that believes in combining all forms of struggle and feels such nostalgia for its martial past that even in politics, it kept the acronym FARC.

Colombians are not fooled though, in spite of it all. In various polls people said they did not believe in the FARC's desire for peace, because the guerrillas had always shown that they were neither trustworthy nor honorable. Their real leaders are irredeemable bandits, unfit for social reintegration, and their sick minds make them insist on an ideology that has plunged the country into a "war" as some will call it, and sown corpses across the land.

The system there has left Venezuelans broken and hungry, and is turning them into pariahs...

A clear example is the terrorist Carlos Lozada (nom de guerre for Julián Gallo) who today has a seat in the Senate without having won a single vote. A while back he attended that vile gathering in Caracas, the Sao Paulo Forum, where he relentlessly praised Nicolás Maduro's dictatorship and socialist economy.

The system there has left Venezuelans broken and hungry, and is turning them into pariahs, as neighboring states fearful of the destabilizing effects of their mass exodus start shutting them out. At yet, as Lozada insists, the FARC wants to impose just such a system on Colombia.

It is furthermore absurd to assert that these guerrillas want to fight again because the government of President Iván Duque has failed to honor the peace accords. These are to be implemented over 12 long years, the first of which is this first year of the Duque presidency.

Anti-Duque posters in Bogota — Photo: Daniel Garzon Herazo/ZUMA

Again, the head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, says the government and guerrillas are committed to implementing the pact and that "there are clear and tangible elements in which one may see this commitment materialized." Notre Dame University's Kroc Institute, tasked with observing the accord's implementation, offered a similar assessment in its third report, in April. "Advances so far have been significant," it reported.

It is brazen then to claim that Duque has not been honoring the state's side of the bargain, especially considering the anger this implementation is causing his political constituents. Indeed, many voted for him precisely so that he would rip up the scandalous scrap of paper. If, as some claim, he really were a puppet of the former president Álvaro Uribe, there would have been some tangible result by now of efforts to unseat him, and yet none is evident.

What do the reckless judges say to that?

No, the entire state has prostrated and abased itself to satisfy the guerrillas' demands and safeguard this apparent peace. A case in point are the high court decisions made with regards to Jesús Santrich (a fugitive guerrilla chief suspected of drug trafficking) and that almost amount to criminal complicity.

The transitional judicial body transferred its prerogatives to avoid Santrich's extradition to the United States, the State Council gave him parliamentary immunity before he had taken up his Senate seat, as the law demands, and the Supreme Court ordered his release, allowing him to flee. This blind gentleman is now armed again and threatening to kill anyone obstructing his revolutionary path. What do the reckless judges say to that?

The FARC lack the power they had 20 years ago, but with coca money and the backing of the tyranny next-door, they obtain arms, supplies and fighters in addition to those they forcibly recruit. They should not be underestimated ,even if their declaration changes nothing. We already knew the Santos peace was a lie, a farce and a fiction. They never laid down their arms, because they could never disarm their soul.

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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