Today, the FARC held what was its first news conference outside of Colombia in years to address the recent reports that it will enter into peace talks with the Colombian government to end the nearly-50 year civil war. Apparently, the agreement to hold peace talks was hammered out across the last six months. While President Santos called the agreement to hold talks a “roadmap to peace,” FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez used slightly more direct language, describing the Colombian elite as “bloody-toothed vampires.”
While that seems to bode poorly for the talks, the fact that the Colombian government is willing to hold talks that include issues that matter to the FARC, including agrarian reform, is still fairly encouraging. Indeed the issues to be discussed – “agrarian reform, political participation, drug trafficking, victims and reparations, ending conflict, implementing peace” – seems to cover areas of interest for both the Colombian government, which has an interest in ending the conflict, implementing peace, and working out a way to deal with the issue of victims and reparations (as the state will probably be responsible for overseeing the distribution of reparations, should there be any), as well as for the leftist FARC, which definitely has an interest in agrarian reform and increased democratic and political participation for Colombians who are perhaps excluded from more elite-oriented systems of power. And as I’ve said before, hopefully the government is willing to address the issue of paramilitaries (which have often been tied to the government in the past) as it confronts the issues of drug trafficking and ending conflict.
From an international perspective, the fact that Norway and Cuba are supporting the talks with Chile and Venezuela “accompanying” them shows how broad support for peace talks is in the international community. Certainly, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and conservative Chilean president Sebastián Piñera share little in common in terms of visions of the state’s role, social ideologies, or economic policies; that both of their voices are involved, however, suggests real pressure and investment from various ideological backgrounds in the international arena.
To be clear, that’s not to say the talks are guaranteed to be successful. Indeed, given that the war has been going on for 48 years without a resolution, and that there are still plenty of points of contention between the two sides, still makes it seem quite a ways off. However, the fact that the talks do deal with issues of interest for both sides, and that it enjoys multilateral international support from a variety of ideological stances, is at least reason for a greater degree of hope than in previous years, where talks alone were all but inconceivable.