Peace talks advance with the visit of a congressional committee to Havana and demands by victims of the conflict. After a meeting with the National Unity Coalition in the Casa de Nariño, President Santos said: “I informed the National Unit Coalition how exactly this process is going, how it has been making progress, and what texts are agreed, in which, as has already been said, no previous process ever achieved a step of this nature.” Santos also commented: “The committee went (to Havana) for two very specific purposes: to show these legislative gentlemen progress and to point out the importance of recognizing the victims.” He added: “Of course it is still a long way to go and that is why the issue of time is so important.”
As broadly reported, the government and the FARC achieved the first real progress in the peace talks. In this regard, alias “Ivan Marquez” said: “We finished this round of talks with progress, which speaks well of our desire for peace, despite the unfounded assertions of President Juan Manuel Santos,” adding: “We are building an agreement that now is approaching about five pages (…) never has a peace process advanced so much.”
Incidents were up considerably again this week to 49 back to where things had been directly after the suspension of the Farc’s unilateral ceasefire. However most of the items were initiated by the Armed Forces which is a good sign. Our 4-week Moving Average was down very and it now sits at 43 incidents per week closer to what amounts to a long-term average.
This week was the week of the press statements and public speeches. The most important exchange was between the President and “Ivan Marquez” who heads or at least is the visible leader of the guerrilla team, but there was also an exchanges between Juan Camilo Restrepo, the Agriculture Minister and alias “Marquez”.
Incidents were down considerably again this week to 33 a level not seen since the ceasefire period back in December but there were fresh direct attacks on pipelines. Our 4-week Moving Average was down significantly and it now sits at 44 incidents per week closer to what amounts to the long-term average.
Talks resumed in Havana, but the dynamic is security at home. The FARC continue to enrage citizens through terrorism like school bombings but say such acts are the government’s fault because it refuses to consider a bi-lateral truce. The truce concept received a boost when long-time politician and commentator Alvaro Leyva suggested a ceasefire with international supervision might work. But he did not seem to be suggesting that the UN “blue helmets” be brought in but rather that selected celebrities and other worthies do the supervision. Considering the vast territory to be covered, that seems unfeasible.
In an interview with RCN Radio, the mayor of Arauca, Luis Emilio Tovar, said that after a week of protests, the situation at the Caño Limon Coveñas complex was partially normalized: “The entrance to the Caño Limón complex was restored; we are already entering with a military convoy. The rest of the department is blocked but today the public transportation is available and people are coming and going to Arauca “.
Incidents were back down again this week to 43 but there were fresh direct attacks on pipelines. Our 4-week Moving Average was down slightly and it now sits at 52 incidents per week, back where it was in November last year and still down from a peak of 58 back in October.
The peace talks continue their somewhat strange rhythm with both sides smiling for the cameras and issuing upbeat communiqués but the Farc and the ELN returning to kidnapping and heinous civilian terrorism. The result is a dynamic where the President joins the Defense Minister in denouncing the acts, civil society hardens its views and yet the negotiators continue as if nothing were going on back home that might impact the talks.
Colombia ran a kind of controlled experiment from the 20th of November to the 20th of January when the Farc observed a unilateral ceasefire. During this time, oil and gas companies were largely free to produce and transport what they wanted, limited only by geology, normal production difficulties like equipment breakdowns, community activism and the National Environmental Licensing Agency (ANLA). These months from November to January were also the three highest production months in the history of Colombia. Was this a glimpse at the peace dividend and if so, we asked, what was it worth?