According to early surveys, the popularity of President Juan Manuel Santos went up after the announcement of the start of peace talks with the FARC narcoguerrillas.
That’s natural. After 47 years of horror, Colombians want an end to the conflict and trust Santos’ talent and remarkable astuteness to win the game. But they mistrust the intentions of the FARC chieftain known as Timoshenko. (Of course, when Andrés Pastrana started a similar process some years ago, the same thing happened: The president enjoyed five minutes of glory.)
Will this initiative fail, as happened during Pastrana’s administration? Maybe, but there are differences, as well as similarities. The greatest difference is that there won’t be a fire-free zone, and military operations will not be slowed down. While negotiating, the narcoguerrillas will continue to murder, kidnap and traffic in drugs, while the Armed Forces will not cease to combat their old enemy fire and sword.
Theoretically, while Rodrigo Londoño Echeverría, aka Timoshenko, a tough 52-year-old man, speaks of peace in Oslo or Havana, following the rules of engagement, he could be trying to kill Juan Manuel Santos and his family.
For his part, the Colombian president is simultaneously free to give the go-ahead to his skilled pilots to blow away Timoshenko, as they did with former FARC leaders Raúl Reyes, Mono Jojoy and Alfonso Cano.
If that’s the big difference between the two intentions, the similarities remain intact: Santos is the president of an exquisitely legalistic nation and has to act within the boundaries conferred upon him by the law.
As much as his parliament tries, it cannot grant impunity to those who have committed crimes against humanity, as the FARC and the paramilitary groups have done.
One of those crimes — subject to international laws — is the international trafficking in drugs, the FARC’s basic source of income.
It is precisely Timoshenko who reportedly reorganized the production and distribution of cocaine for shipment to the United States, which explains why the U.S. government offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of this criminal.
A U.S. administration, Republican or Democratic, would hardly agree to not pursue a criminal who had done much damage to its country. It would be just as unlikely that, when the time came, Bogotá wouldn’t deliver him to U.S. justice for prosecution.
Another key element that remains inalterable is the FARC’s world vision. This group of narcoguerrillas is the armed wing of the Colombian Communist Party.
Its ringleaders ask for alleged agrarian reforms or increases in the minimum wage for farmers, but those are merely smoke screens to conceal the fact that the FARC is a group intent on seizing power, convinced of the goodness of collectivism, one-party rule and the convenience of controlling society with an iron hand by means of prison cells and firing squads, as happens in Cuba and North Korea and happened in the Soviet Union and its satellites, today fortunately liberated.
Given these fatal circumstances, what does Timoshenko seek in the negotiation? There are at least four possibilities:
• First, the FARC is so weakened that, facing a definitive eventual defeat, its leaders are looking for some sort of pact that will allow them to save face.
• Second, they are not defeated but know they cannot win and prefer to end their war efforts in an orderly fashion, as happened in Guatemala and El Salvador, rather than remain in the jungle waiting for the final bombardment.
• Third, Timoshenko no longer has a clear view of the fate of the communism he first embraced in youth. He realizes that Raúl Castro in Cuba, without risking his power, is trying to end that unproductive and cruel way to organize society, while the lives of ally Hugo Chávez and his Bolivarian monstrosity hang by a thread. In other words, neither communism nor “21st-Century socialism” — communism’s clumsy rhetorical variant — have a future.
• Fourth, this is only a strategic play conceived to divide the democrats, especially Santos’ and Uribe’s supporters, for the purpose of promoting the election to the presidency of a man the Colombians call a mamerto (front man), a radical leftist, perhaps a smooth politician who gains power via the electoral route and clears the way for the narcoguerrillas into the presidential palace.
Will the negotiation between Santos and Timoshenko come to a good end?
It is almost impossible to be optimistic. The Spaniards have an eloquent saying: “Constant mistrust is a sign of having been screwed.”
That’s what is happening to the Colombians.