Light At The End Of Colombia's Tunnel?

Despite dire predictions about Colombia's future, the peace process with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has recently been strengthened, primarily through the work of President Andrés Pastrana, but the guerrillas have contributed too. It is now possible to speak of moving from a dishonest peace process tainted by violent ambushes and stalling tactics toward real peace. Indeed, agreement on a bilateral cease-fire is expected before April.

After twenty years of peace talks that achieved next to nothing, in 1998, Colombia's public, sickened by assassinations, massacres, and kidnappings, required the then newly-elected President Pastrana to re-energize the search for peace. To do so, the government took a big risk and conceded to the FARC a territory the size of Switzerland to control.

The three years of desultory talks that resulted, however, achieved little. So President Pastrana abandoned the politics of concession in favor of a firm hand. The government told the guerillas either to negotiate seriously or see the Colombian military move into the FARC's territory.

The FARC leaders were stunned by the president's resolve. Despite Pastrana's vigorous pronouncements, the guerillas believed that the President would back down as he had so frequently in the past. Instead, to the FARC's astonishment, the government's plan to retake control of the region was serious. Given the Pastrana government's new resolve, the FARC had no option but to yield.