Tag Archives: United Nations

The FARC Is Not Finished by Juan Galeano

8 Jul

Juan: The recent news headlines announcing the fall of the FARC are ill timed and inappropriate.

While recent setbacks to the FARC (the deaths of the founder along with two other members of the original seven person leadership team and the loss of four high profile hostages) have demonstrated significant progress on behalf of the Colombian government there is still much work that needs to be done in order to dismantle the rest of the organization.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest rebel insurgency in South America, has been a top supplier of cocaine throughout the world and destabilized the Western Hemisphere through violence and terrorism. In recognition of this Colombia is the largest recipient of U.S. aid outside of the Middle East and receives significant support in military funding to combat the guerilla force.

Since the early 1980s the FARC and other drug mafias based out of Colombia have been providing cocaine, heroin, and other drugs to the detriment of many communities within the United States even till this day.

To understand why the FARC is currently in disarray, it is important to understand the factors both external and internal to Colombia that have led to the fallout which it is currently experiencing.

External:

1) From 2000- 2007 Colombia has received over $5 Billion dollars in U.S. Aid for counter narcotics efforts which includes the build up of military forces.

2) International pressure and condemnation have discredited the organization across the world.

3) Support to FARC from foreign governments such as Venezuela has waned due to international pressure.

Internal:

1) Through drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping the organization has become very unpopular at home.

2) The current president of Columbia, Alvaro Uribe, is determined to put an end to the FARC.

  • Past presidents have taken much softer stances including turning over territory as a safe haven

3) Incentives by the government have given the FARC members a reason to defect. Incentives include:

  • Allowing FARC members to face less harsh penalties for turning themselves in peacefully.
  • Financial compensation for divulging information,
  • Bounties which can be collected no questions asked in return for wanted criminals
  • Not having to face extradition to the United States

4) The ability to cross the Colombian border to another country has even become more difficult.

This list is by no means all encompassing, but it gives you an idea of some of the factors at play. Through analyzing both the internal and external factors you will notice that most of them are contingent upon the conditions of today and they can quickly change tomorrow.

Should the Untied States stop funding military aid to Colombia, what would happen? What if the pressure against the FARC from the international community decreases now that Ingrid Betancourt is free? What if the Colombian people elect a president that takes a soft stance against the FARC in 2010? Now this is stretching it but, what if the FARC attempted to reorganize the way it operates and regains some legitimacy? None of these factors are guaranteed.

With the FARC having estimated membership ranging from 9,000 troops to 18,000 along with 200,000- 300,000 million in yearly drug revenue (mostly cocaine) they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Headlines announcing the coming end of the FARC create a feeling of a premature victory. Until the FARC agrees to cease operations and end the armed conflict completely they will be no where near done.

Juan Galeano can be reached for comments at galeanojd@gmail.com

South Africa: Conspiring with Robert Mugabe?

1 Jul

Seth: Hopefully, you are aware of the news coming out of Zimbabwe. I didn’t realize how grave the situation was there until I listened to a reporter who had been on the ground in that African nation.

Thus far, I’vebeen familiar with the initial election, and the tension between the ruling party and the opposition. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat the incumbent, Robert Mugabe, but did not win a majority of votes. Mr. Mugabe has been president since 1987, and the country’s only leader since independence was won and free elections held for the first time in 1980. Elections were held on March 29th, and by all accounts Mr. Tsvangiraiwon, but only his party’s tally (but neither the official or an independent estimate) had him with a majority. I was aware that election results were held an unusually and extremely long time, and that there was much suspicion of fraud surrounding the election. However, I did not know that Mr. Tsvangiraiwas prevented from campaigning in much of the country, or holding rallies or running commercials on television leading up to the run-off election; he was arrested several times in the interim period; the leader of his party (Movement for Democratic Change) was arrested and charged with treason; or there has been vicious attacks on suspected MDC supporters before and after the run-off election. If you aren’t aware of these beatings, rapings, and murders, then do a little research; what you’ll find is quite disheartening.

The African Union met recently and some leaders, including the Vice-President of neighboring Botswana have criticized the election results. Vice-President Merfahe said the election couldn’t be considered legitimate because of the violence that was going on. The rest of the AU was a bit softer, instead calling for a coalition of ruling and opposition leaders to run the government. Mr. Mugabe’s spokesperson rejected the idea saying the situation will be resolved “the Zimbabwean way.” This brings us to South Africa.

South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner. Zimbabwe clearly needs their neighbor to the south, given their wrecked economy (also thanks to Mr. Mugabe). Right now, South Africa is serving their two-year rotation on the Security Council and has shown opposition to any sanctions against Zimbabwe. Russia and China, also, are unwilling to have the U.N. get involved (just as they were strongly opposed to sanctions for Sudan). South Africa needs to join the West in demanding action from Mr. Mugabe or nothing will happen. A while ago I wrote about a movie that depicted South Africa’s struggle against apartheid; I wonder how South African President Thabo Mbeki could forget what it felt like to struggle for freedom from corrupt government. He claims to be currently working on a power-sharing agreement between the two parties, and says he has assurance from them to talk further. The MDC denies this strongly:

It’s almost an elite pact between the leaderships. It doesn’t mean anything to the people. We want a transition that is going to work on a new constitution, demilitarise the institutions of Zanu-PF, reform them, and then have elections. – Mr. Tsvangirai

And this:

Press Statement from Hon Tendai Biti, MP, MDC Secretary-General:

There are recent widespread reports that Zanu PF and MDC are talking and are about to conclude an agreement to form a Government of National Unity (GNU).

Nothing can be as malicious and as further from the truth.

As a matter of fact, there are no talks or discussions taking place between the two parties and most importantly, there is no agreement in the offing.

Whilst the MDC pursued dialogue in a bid to establish a Government of National Healing before the 12th June 2008, the sham and catalyptic election on 27 June 2008 totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement.

It is now the firm view of the MDC that those who claim they have got a mandate to govern should govern.

Whatever the case, action needs to be taken to stop the killing and make progress in this much-maligned country.

A Glance at The Republic of Zimbabwe

  • Population: 12,382,920
  • Life Expectancy: 39.73 Years
  • Adult Literacy rate: 90.7%
  • HIV/AIDS prevalence rate: 24.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 80%
  • Internet Users: 1,220,000