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04/03/2012 | Colombia’s FARC - Deliverance?

The Economist Staff

A pledge to end kidnapping

 

BACK in the late 1990s, when Colombia was the world’s kidnapping black spot, the guerrillas of the FARC would throw up roadblocks on isolated stretches of the country’s highways, hauling off anyone who looked able to pay a decent ransom, meaning anything from $5,000 to several million. So Colombians were pleasantly surprised when on February 26th the FARC announced that it would cease kidnapping for ransom, and would release the ten remaining members of the security forces they had been holding as “prisoners of war”—some for as long as 14 years.

Though the guerrillas have never enjoyed much public support, their kidnapping attracted particular opprobrium, prompting protest marches by several million Colombians in 2008. They used their more prominent hostages to grandstand, releasing a few to grab headlines. In a daring raid, security forces rescued 15 others, including Ingrid Betancourt, a politician who was a citizen of both Colombia and France. Nobody knows how many hostages the FARC still holds. The guerrillas were responsible for 77 of the 298 kidnappings in 2011, according to the defence ministry; most of the others were the work of common criminals. Nueva Esperanza foundation, a charity, reckons that of 725 unreleased hostages taken by the guerrillas since 1995, only around 50 are still alive.

Ending kidnapping may be a practical necessity. Government pressure has reduced the FARC from 20,000 troops in 2002 to about 8,000, operating in smaller, more agile units in rural backwaters, making the taking and holding of hostages more difficult. Kidnapping and extortion now account for only around 30% of the FARC’s revenue, reckons Arco Iris, a think-tank in Bogotá. The rest comes from drug trafficking and from taxing illegal gold miners. But Alfredo Rangel, a security analyst, says that without the threat of kidnapping the FARC may resort to sabotage and bombings against companies and individuals who refuse to pay protection money.

Verification of the no-kidnap pledge will be difficult. On Feb 28th seven oil workers were seized in Arauca, on the border with Venezuela, where both the FARC and the ELN, a smaller guerrilla outfit, are present. Officials were uncharacteristically cautious in assigning responsibility.

Optimists hope that the renunciation of kidnapping, and with it the demand to swap military hostages for imprisoned guerrillas, may be an attempt by the FARC’s new leader, Timoleón “Timochenko” Jiménez, to create conditions for peace talks. He has sent two open letters to the president, Juan Manuel Santos, requesting negotiations.

Mr Santos said the FARC’s announcement was an “important, though insufficient, step in the right direction”. But as preconditions for formal talks, the government also wants the end of forced recruitment, a ban on the use of landmines and an end to attacks on civilians. Mr Jiménez will also have to drop his suggestion that negotiations should be a rerun of a failed effort between 1999 and 2002, in which the government withdrew troops from a large area only to see the FARC use it for military training and holding hostages. “I’m not prepared to fall into the trap they always use of having talks so that they can draw breath,” Mr Santos told The Economist last year. So caution is in order. But Colombia just might be witnessing the beginning of the end of the FARC.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 


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15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
19/07/2009|
19/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
27/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House