ColombiaOne.comColombia newsColombian President Blames Guerilla Groups for Peace Negotiations Setback

Colombian President Blames Guerilla Groups for Peace Negotiations Setback

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President Petro criticizes illegal armed groups
President Petro holds armed groups responsible for the future of peace talks – Credit: Presidencia / X

Finally, on Tuesday, November 7th, President Gustavo Petro openly addressed the crisis in the two peace processes that the Colombian state is conducting with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Central High Command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EMC). The president strongly criticized both illegal armed groups and held them responsible for the future of the peace talks.

The president, who was attending the promotion ceremony of 243 officers at the Francisco de Paula Santander Cadet School in Bogotá, questioned the attitude of the insurgent armed groups regarding the peace process.

Criticism of Colombia’s illegal armed groups

From this forum, the head of state launched a strong criticism of the FARC-EMC, which last weekend decided to walk away from the dialogue table after an unusual incident in which a group of soldiers was kidnapped for a few hours in a rural area of the municipality of Argelia, Cauca. The soldiers were held by a group of civilians who, under threat from this guerrilla group, carried out the criminal act.

The state’s response, after securing the release of the soldiers, was to deploy a strong operation to regain control of the region by the security forces. The FARC-EMC’s response to this militarization of the territory was to unilaterally suspend the talks that began in mid-October in Tibú, Norte de Santander.

Gustavo Petro also criticized the ELN in his speech yesterday. ELN has been in peace talks with the state for a year and orchestrated an incident that made headlines worldwide. On October 27th, the parents of Colombian soccer player Luis Díaz, a star at Liverpool FC in England, were kidnapped. Although the mother was eventually released, Luis Manuel Díaz has been held captive for 11 days now. After various questions about whether the top leaders of this organization were aware of the criminal act, an immediate release was announced, which has not yet occurred.

Camilo Torres or Pablo Escobar

President Petro also issued a warning to both criminal groups after stating that the Cauca region where the FARC-EMC operates has become a “stronghold” of illicit economies. Furthermore, for the first time, the president acknowledged that granting this FARC splinter group political status may have been “premature.”

Petro explained that the insurgent groups have two options: to follow the “path of Camilo Torres or that of Pablo Escobar,” referring to the guerrilla priest from the early years of the ELN or the head of the feared Medellín Cartel, which disrupted Colombian society in the 1980s and 1990s.

“They still have the opportunity to choose whether the path is Camilo Torres Restrepo, the priest who founded the sociology faculty at the National University, or Pablo Escobar. Colombia doesn’t own the cocaine market; now it’s multinational corporations. Colombia is left with the worst: the overexploitation of peasants, who receive only a tiny fraction of what it’s worth in the United States or China,” added the Colombian president.

Transforming the illicit economy in Colombia

Petro stated that the country is in the “third phase of violence,” based on the drug trafficking economy. The head of state explained that the FARC-EMC was proposed to leave a town in Cauca by force and allow the government to transform this area into a legal economy.

“If we can achieve that, the possibilities for peace will open up in Colombia. Today, what we have is a struggle in the fields where the leaders of the armed factions who raise those weapons in many parts of the national territory have dressed not as guerrillas but as drug traffickers,” the president said in his speech, referring to individuals who have enriched themselves through drug trafficking.

Presidente Petro critica grupos armados ilegales
Pablo Escobar or Camilo Torres, the two paths guerrilla groups can choose to follow, says Petro. Photo: Public Domain / CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed

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