Why Peace Is Close In Colombia, Even If FARC Will Never Surrender

President Santos' decision to try to negotiate an end to a decades-long civil war is the only path for a nation that has suffered too much already.

Juan Manuel Santos in 2011
Juan Manuel Santos in 2011
América Economía

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos not only has the historic opportunity to end the longest and most violent conflict in Latin America’s contemporary history, but also the duty to do so.

He must sit down with the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) now in Havana.

The conflict, which started in 1984, has left 5.5 million victims: of murders, disappearances, kidnappings -- people have been left disabled, women have been raped, children displaced, entire towns pillaged. And the conflict continues, with more victims every day, which forces Santos, all Colombians, and the entire Latin American community to think pragmatically.

Our conclusion is that there is no alternative to the one that has been undertaken by the President.

Following the path of a relentless war in the hopes of total military defeat of the FARC is a pipe dream. Former President Álvaro Uribe is the one who most adamantly opposes negotiation today. Despite the fact that he used all of the Executive’s power to greatly reduce the power of the guerillas, they are still strong. FARC still counts up to 8,000 combatants spread across 67 fronts in territories they know inside and out, where they can strike at any time and hide permanently.

They also have access to abundant resources, which, only in terms of drug trafficking profits, are estimated to be $1.5 billion per year. They also count on combat experience that dates back to 1964. Moreover, additionaly military pressure would undermine the legitimacy of the state's security policy, and increase the number of innocent victims. In the past innocent people were killed because of a policy that offered incentives for each head of a dead guerrilla.

Finish the task

If knocking out the FARC, as Uribe advocates, is not possible, forcing them to give up as Santos intends to do is instead the urgent goal. Yes, the bloodshed could actually end. Today, the guerrilla group is beaten to the point where they finally realize that they are not going to win political power in Colombia. This is the main point that differentiates this peace process from the last negotiation in 2001 under Andrés Pastrana. This time, it is reasonable for the FARC to retreat with the best possible conditions.

Having reached this point is a credit to Uribe. The former President had the virtue to resist the status quo of a standoff that had been reached between the government and the guerilla. That situation could have accepted FARC and other armed groups as permanent diseases endemic to the country. This would have meant giving up on the defense of Colombian citizens and endangering the nation's future prosperity. According to the Foundation for Higher Education and Development (Fedesarrollo), an independent research entity, this war cut into GDP growth by 3.2% points in 2012.

However, Santos must be the one to finish the task by balancing a negotiation in which Colombians interpret signing the peace treaty with the FARC as the surrender of the guerilla group, even if it does not say it in those terms. At the same time, the conditions the rebels demand must seem magnanimous concessions granted by the State as the one responsible for ensuring the common good. This is crucial in a country so driven by thirst for revenge.

At the same time, the Colombian context is a complex breeding ground for conflict. The FARC notwithstanding, rural policy is in great need of reform given Colombia's long history of social inequities and strife.

It is then important to recognize that peace with the FARC would not end conflict in the nation as a whole. Despite the fact that this guerilla group is guilty of decades worth of atrocious crimes, it is not guilty of many other ills afflicting Colombia.

The Colombian conflict is one where, all too often, victims turn into victimizers and victimizers become the victims. It is one where the heroes are also the villains and where everyone drinks from the corrupt fountain of drug trafficking. All this has generated countless armed groups from Left and Right, as well as common criminals of the most violent and corrupt sort. Sadly, a part of the State’s administration is not exempt from this.

That being said, we must vow to begin to put an end to this story somewhere. Santos has had the vision and the political strength to face the FARC. Supporting his efforts is a historic necessity.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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