Colombia: Leftist Killers Demand Amnesty


October 10, 2012: The army has put more resources into shutting down illegal oil refining operations. This involves stealing oil from pipelines (which often leads to the pipeline being shut down temporarily for repairs) and then processing it for use in cocaine refining operations out in the hills. The key to crippling these operations is to prevent the barrels of stolen oil to be moved (by river boat or truck) to the improvised refineries.

FARC isn't the only major threat to the country, just the most violent one. An even more destructive, but less discussed, problem is widespread corruption. The cheating and stealing is worse in the government and government supported programs run by commercial firms. One of the worst examples is the health system, which the government took over two decades ago, which collects 12.5 percent of everyone's income and is supposed to provide care. But more and more of that tax money is being stolen and less and less care is available. The government is cracking down but it's only one of many major scams in the government.

The FARC peace talks are mainly about demobilization, amnesty, and turning FARC into a political party. The problem is that many widely known FARC leaders are responsible for thousands of crimes (murder, kidnapping, rape, theft, and general acts of terror and intimidation). FARC wants amnesty for all these men, as well as getting FARC leaders released from prisons in Colombia and the United States. It would be politically impossible to give FARC all the amnesty they want and the negotiations will come down to agreeing on what degree of amnesty both sides can tolerate. Another complication will be government demands that FARC members who do not qualify for amnesty being turned over by FARC. This didn't work out when the anti-FARC militias were demobilized in a similar deal six years ago. Both FARC and the government want to avoid the problems that accompanied the peace deal with those militias (many of the anti-leftist fighters became members of other criminal gangs). Meanwhile, FARC wants its negotiators in Norway, and others of their number who might join the peace talks, to be given total immunity from arrest (for past crimes) inside and outside Colombia. The U.S. is not inclined to go along with this for the FARC leaders it is seeking to prosecute.

Another thing FARC has to trade is its use of landmines. These weapons are liberally employed to protect FARC and drug operations out in the countryside. Only Afghanistan has higher casualties from landmines each year. The Islamic radicals and drug gangs in Afghanistan are big users of landmines. A peace deal with FARC would greatly reduce landmine injuries.

As a peace gesture, or in response to growing military pressure, FARC and ELN attacks on oil pipelines have declined. Colombia pumps nearly a million barrels of oil a day but leftist rebel attacks on the pipeline have, until recently, halted (on average) 9,000 barrels a day. In the last month that has gone down to 3,000 barrels a day.

October 8, 2012: In the north (Magdalena State) a grenade attack left three civilians dead and three wounded. This was believed to be connected with a dispute between two drug gangs.

October 4, 2012: The government and FARC have agreed to resume peace talks (in Norway) on October 17th.

September 24, 2012: In the southwest (Narino State) an ELN bomb went off outside a hospital, wounding twenty people.





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