The Price of Peace

Four rounds of arduous and inconclusive peace negotiations between the government of President Andrés Pastrana and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have left mounting frustration on both sides of the negotiating table.

Public opinion surveys in Colombia show signs of waning support for Pastrana’s peace offensive and growing impatience with his failure to secure a lasting peace. Carlos Caballero Argáez, writing in Bogotá’s centrist El Tiempo (Nov. 17), suggests that, as a  society, Colombians are uncertain of the peace process’s goals, and this confusion colors negotiations with the leftist FARC guerrillas.

“Are we seeking peace only for peace’s sake and, thus, disposed to negotiate what is not negotiable?” Argáez asks rhetorically. El Tiempo’s columnist proposes that the Pastrana administration establish four objectives in the current peace talks: “to consolidate a 170-year-old democracy,” to achieve territorial integration and “reinforce the unifying character of our nationality,” to broaden civil and economic freedoms, and to spur sustained, rapid economic growth.

“Peace serves no purpose if it is merely to maintain poverty, but rather it must advance the country’s development in the most rapid way possible,” he argues.

Analía Alvarez, of the leftist Página 12 of Buenos Aires, recently traveled to a FARC encampment in the forests of southern Colombia to gain the guerrilla viewpoint on the peace talks from deputy commander Raúl Reyes. In an interview published in Página 12 on Oct. 24, Reyes contends that popular support for Pastrana’s conduct of peace negotiations is eroding “because almost a year has passed and the government has produced no advance. And there are no results because he has no defined peace policy.” Indeed, the FARC commander views recent U.S. offers of assistance to the Pastrana regime in its war on drug traffickers as a cover for rearming and refinancing the army offensive against the guerrillas. “These are not gestures of peace but the execution of a plan for war,” Reyes says.