Last week, I had some thoughts on Colombia’s announcement of peace talks with the FARC, the first since the late-1990s. The issue is one of the specialties of Adam Isaacson, who specializes in security issues and Colombia over at Just the Facts blog. Fortunately, he has some further thoughts, including the question, “Why now?”:
Until this week, it was widely rumored that the Santos government had been maintaining quiet contacts with the FARC. A common opinion in Colombia, however, held that President Santos would move slowly while applying military pressure on the guerrillas, with talks unlikely before 2013. There are several reasons, though, why talks could be possible now:
- Both sides are approaching a “hurting stalemate,” in which neither feels victory is imminent and the cost of continued fighting may be greater than the cost of negotiating. Since the last peace process ended in 2002, the FARC has lost territory, membership and strategic initiative, and lost several top leaders. However, an increase in guerrilla activity since about 2008 has fed perceptions in Colombia that security is deteriorating, and undone optimism about the conflict entering a “home stretch.”
- In part because of security perceptions, President Santos’s approval ratings have declined recently, making his 2014 re-election less certain and perhaps pushing up his timetable for starting talks.
- The rise in prices of commodities like oil and minerals has led President Santos to referto extractive industries as a “locomotive of the economy.” However, many potential natural resource reserves are in remote, historically neglected areas under guerrilla control. The Santos government may be calculating that a negotiation to demobilize the FARC offers the quickest path to access these suddenly valuable areas.
I think all of these points make sense. And as they say, read the whole analysis here.