Colombia. In January, peace talks resumed between the guerrilla movement FARC (Colombia’s revolutionary armed forces) and the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba. In June, it was reported that the ELN (National Liberation Army), the second largest guerrilla group in Colombia, was also willing to enter into peace talks with the government. However, no ceasefire had been announced prior to the round of negotiations because the suspicion was great that FARC would use a ceasefire as a delaying technique and take the opportunity to regroup militarily. According to Countryaah, FARC and ELN also cooperated in their opposition to government-supported mine exploits in the province of Antioquia. In mid-March, FARC blasted part of the ore rail linking Colombia’s largest coal mine Cerrejón to the coast.
Thus, the war actions continued, and in July, for example, were killed. 19 soldiers in two separate FARC attacks in the provinces of Arauca and Caquetá, with President Juan Manuel Santos in turn ordering escalated operations against the guerrillas. At the end of September, Santos called on the FARC in a speech at the UN to seize the opportunity to achieve peace, while rejecting all forms of impunity for crimes against humanity or for systematic war crimes committed during the 50-year civil war.
However, negotiations in Havana were slow, and accusations of unwillingness to compromise were heard from both sides. The major issue was land reform, which has been at the top of the FARC agenda for many decades and which the government has been accused of delaying. Only in early November was an agreement reached on the second of the six points discussed, namely the disarmament of the disarmed guerrillas in the democratic process. The breakthrough, however, was followed by a setback when Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón revealed a short week later that the FARC planned to murder the former president and strong critic of the peace process Álvaro Uribe (president 2002-10) and state prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre. Uribe’s right-wing Democratic Center demanded that peace talks be stopped immediately.
On March 1, the military carried out an attack on Ecuador, wiped out a FARC camp, and killed everyone in the camp. Including FARC’s second in command, Raúl Reyes. The attack happened based on the tracking of a satellite phone call that Reyes had conducted. The tracking was done by the US intelligence and the US immediately supported Colombia’s attack on Ecuador. The reaction was different in the rest of Latin America. Ecuador severed diplomatic relations with Colombia, and Venezuela and Nicaragua withdrew their ambassadors and condemned the abortion. Venezuela also drew troop forces to the border with Colombia.
With the killing of Reyes, the Colombian government succeeded in burying peace initiatives and negotiations for the release of FARC prisoners. Reyes had, on the part of the FARC, been the main character in these negotiations. French Foreign Minister Kouchner and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The latest attempts to release prisoners in late 2007 and early 2008 had been thwarted by Colombian military offensives.
In July, in a spectacular rescue operation, the Colombian military freed 4 civilians and 11 prisoners of war from a FARC camp in southern Colombia. Among those freed were Franco-Colombian former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 3 North Americans. The rest were Colombian soldiers sitting in captivity at FARC. Acc. According to information from the military, they managed to infiltrate the FARC leadership in the camp and trick the camp commander into handing over the prisoners. The liberation action could thereby be carried out without bloodshed. A few days later, it emerged that several Colombian soldiers had been carrying International Red Cross (ICRC) badges during the liberation campaign. This is strictly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and ranks in line with war crimes. The president subsequently apologized, but the military routinely continues its violations of the conventions.
Amnesty International reported in 2009 that in the 12-month period ending June 2008, 1515 civilians were killed in Colombia due to the war in the country. Most were killed by the military and death patrols. (Amnesty assigned FARC and ELN responsibility for 189 of the killings). 46 professional unionists were among those killed and 12 were human rights activists.
The revelations of the military’s killings led to the resignation of 27 officers and 3 generals – including Chief of Staff Mario Montoya. The military had initially claimed that those killed were partisans killed in combat. It was only later that investigations found that there were regular executions by soldiers and death patrols jointly.
At the same time, increased patrol activity was reported. The patrols were officially dissolved in 2006, and the government expelled the death patrols to the United States in 2008 to avoid being questioned by the Colombia judiciary. However, that did not prevent the judiciary in 2009 from launching a preliminary investigation into 80 MPs’ connections to the death patrols. Almost all members of Uribe’s coalition.