The widely praised peace talks between FARC rebels and the Santos government will likely end in failure, said a former adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush Tuesday.
“I am extremely skeptical about the FARC’s intentions,” Jose Cardenas told Colombia Reports. Indeed, he ventured that there is an “85% chance” peace talks will fail as they did ten years ago. Cardenas argued the FARC are adopting the peace talks solely as a political tactic to strengthen their position, rather than disband.
By appearing in favor of a negotiated settlement, the FARC, “are trying to acquire a level of public sympathy…Negotiating will allow them to gain leverage in public opinion that they don’t have now.”
Cardenas characterized the Santos administration’s position as misguided. “The government should demand a unilateral ceasefire from FARC as a precondition to talks. A ceasefire would demonstrate their will for peace,” he said. At present, neither side has refrained from hostilities. On the contrary, FARC have stepped up attacks against the armed forces over recent months.
Cardenas contended the answer to peace probably lies in the hardline strategy adopted by Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s head of state from 2002 to 2010. After Uribe came to power, “FARC was pushed from the cities…their ability to conduct operations was weakened…[and the government] steadily decapitated the rebel leadership.”
While reliable figures on FARCS troop strength are unavailable, Cardenas estimated that the number of active combatants has halved from approximately 20,000 to 10,000 over the past decade. “If the government pushed further militarily, they might get that unilateral ceasefire…There is more the government can do,” he added.
Cardenas further speculated that the insouciance of the Obama administration was a salient factor in Santos’ thinking. “There is not the same solidarity between Santos and Obama as there was during the presidencies of Bush and Uribe.”
The White House released a statement on September 4, which supposedly demonstrated US support for Santos. However, given the enormity of their economic problems, the quagmire in Afghanistan and the upcoming presidential election, to name only a few issues, the US leadership has remained mostly mute on Colombia. Obama leads, “an administration that has very little interest in Latin America,” lamented Cardenas.
The current disengagement from Colombian affairs in Washington stands in contrast to the last time FARC and the government attempted to reach a peace accord. In the late 1990s, Colombia famously became the third largest recipient of US military aid. “I believe that we owe it to Colombia to see this through,” Cardenas stated.
Mr Cardenas is an associate with consulting firm “VisionAmericas”. He previously served in several senior positions during the Bush administrations, including posts at the State Department, the National Security Council and USAID.