The eighth round of peace talks between the government and the FARC began on Tuesday in Havana. Humberto de la Calle, chief negotiator of the government, said he has the “purpose of making decisions.”
Counts were down to 30 which is 20% below recent and long term averages. Our 4-week Moving Average incident count was down 8% to 33.6 incidents but the 52 week average held steady at 36.6.
The overall framework of the peace talks in civil society – beyond the negotiating table – is becoming a debate between rendition and reconciliation. A sizable and vocal portion of Colombian society wants rendition: no peace unless the Farc surrender and pay for their crimes. A statistical majority appear to be tired of the long conflict and simply want peace. The latter group would share the former’s concerns about the future – no deals with the Farc that would cause fundamental shifts in Colombian society — but are less concerned about atonement for the past. They just want the conflict to end.
Counts were back up to 37 almost exactly at the average of the previous 52 weeks (36.5). On average during the past year, 85% of incidents have been initiated by the Armed Forces and this week the percentage is almost exactly that at 84%. Our 4-week Moving Average incident count was down 5% to 36.5 incidents per week exactly the 52 week average.
April 9th has much symbolic value for Colombians. On that day in 1948, a great popular leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated in Bogotá. His death precipitated a riot that destroyed buildings and businesses in the city center. Many were killed as government troops fired on the crowds. More importantly, it was the starting point for a wave of civil inter-factional violence that eventually resulted in the founding of the Farc and later the ELN. This year was the 65th anniversary of Gaitan’s death and with the possibility of peace as a backdrop, support grew for a march to mark the date and show that the civil population wanted the talks to go well..
National weekly news magazine Semana published an article that analyzes whether the FARC may have surface to air missiles to shoot down aircrafts. Recent statements by U.S. General John Kelly put the issue on the table. In a speech before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Kelly said that the FARC have surface-to-air missiles acquired with their income from the cocaine trafficking.
This was not a light week for security incidents – some of them more horrific than we have become accustomed to in the past six months. But these were in Cauca department where, apart from a few technical evaluation blocks in very specific areas, there is little going on in oil and gas. Our counts were nearly even with last week at 33.
The government and the Farc were supposed to resume their discussions in Havana on Tuesday but the meetings were put off until the third week of April. The Farc were thus unconstrained by the need to stick to the agreed agenda and so issued a disturbing joint statement with their sometimes allies / sometimes enemies the ELN. The government team urged everyone to calm down about Farc statements made outside the negotiating table.
This was Holy Week in Colombia, Easter in the Christian calendar, and by luck it corresponded this year with a holiday on Monday, March 25. This meant most of Colombia was on vacation virtually the whole week and the Armed Forces turned their focus to ensuring there were no embarrassing incidents affecting tourists. Lining the roads with soldiers when city dwellers are on the highways is also good publicity. Incidents were down this week to 34, below the long term average.
As reported by the Colombian news media, during the General Assembly, Javier Gutiérrez, President of Ecopetrol, said that because of the 109 attacks against the oil infrastructure of the company, last year nearly 9,559bd were lost, of which 6,000bd correspond to Ecopetrol. For this reason, since last year the company added new monitoring technology, strengthened the inspection and maintenance procedures for pipelines and transportation systems. He added: “We are investing to anticipate such attacks and maintain transport infrastructure integrity, for which we are spending US$359M.” Gutierrez said that Ecopetrol invested US$5.3M to strengthen contingency plans, drills and inform about 1,350 communities.