Are The Victims Of FARC The Key To Finding Peace For Colombia?

With talks on in Havana to end the decades-old civil war in Colombia, a push is on to force negotiators to meet face-to-face with victims of the violence.

Kidnapping was a favorite tactic for the leftist insurgents.
Kidnapping was a favorite tactic for the leftist insurgents.
María del Rosario Arrázola

It used to be that peace was negotiated with a pardon exchanged for a surrender of weapons. Now, respect for human rights has become a requirement of any settlement, which leaves no room for a negotiation without truth, justice and reparation.

In other words, negotiation must include a guarantee that there is no impunity. In this national and international dynamic, the victims or the “forgotten ones” of yesterday are the essence of today's peace. And this is finally now becoming the backbone of the peace process that the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) are carrying out in Havana, Cuba.

One year ago, FARC spokespeople said that the only one who had to ask for forgiveness was the State, and that they had been the real victims. Now, they recognize that their obligation is to face their own victims. Still, the FARC insists that this cannot take place through some media spectacle, or by making the country believe that the insurgency has been the only source of violence in Colombia.

Truth is that, today more than ever, giving the victims the right that belongs to them, the right to be heard, is the best way to disarm the enemies of the peace process and gain credibility. This is why the involvement of a representative delegation of victims in some of the talks in Cuba is being considered.

In his inaugural address on July 20, Senator Juan Fernando Cristo, president of Colombia’s Congress, declared that the goal is to bring a group of victims of the FARC to meet its negotiators in Havana in the next few weeks.

The aim is not about gaining any advantage at the negotiating table, but to give a sense of realism to the talks, he explained. “The moment the FARC decides to give a face to the victims will be decisive in guaranteeing the negotiations’ success,” Cristo told El Espectador.

He insisted that putting the victims at the center of the process will calm those who believe that the talks between the government and the FARC are leading to impunity.

But the presence of victims in Havana is not the only factor aimed at strengthening the peace process. For example, the designation of Luis Eladio Pérez as the Colombian ambassador in Caracas is not simply a matter of diplomacy. Pérez was kidnapped by the FARC, and held for almost seven years. Moreover, then Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, played an important role in his liberation.

Victims from both sides

In other words, a victim of the FARC and the armed conflict that has been bleeding Colombia for several decades is now the representative of the Colombian government to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and a government interested in negotiations moving forward.

Other countries have also contributed to the momentum in the hopes that there will be a definitive agreement between the FARC and the state this time. Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former Spanish President Felipe González, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others, have all been part of the international pressure to back the peace process.

A protest in Colombia against violence (photo: Frank Ballesteros)

It is clear that peace in Colombia interests the world. But the International Criminal Court has made it clear that the peace process must not leave a trail of impunity. Hence, the idea of involving the victims has emerged as a centerpiece to the process.

One only has to go through the State Council archives to confirm that the state has also committed excesses in the armed conflict, with a paramilitarism that relied on units of the Armed Forces to consolidate its expansion. Nevertheless, to deny that the FARC has left thousands of victims was a mistake.

As a result, the fact that the FARC representatives have recognized that they have to face the victims is a sign of progress. To understand the significance of this encounter, it is enough to read the recent study by Memoria Histórica about the FARC’s kidnappings of at least 2,287 Colombians who never saw home again.

The murder of the Turbay family in Caquetá in 2000, the car bomb at the El Nogal Club in February 2003, the massacre of political hostages in Urrao that year, and the murder of 11 congressmen in Valle del Cauca in 2007 are just the beginning of the FARC’s long list of defenseless victims.

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]


Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos


• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.


"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.


$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.


What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️


"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."


An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

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

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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