The FARC guerrillas have thrown a bucket of cold water at Colombia’s hope for peace through their killing of 11 soldiers on Wednesday, say national media, while 61.8% of Colombians surveyed feel the rebel ceasefire has been broken.
“With their reprehensible action, the FARC have regressed this process back to the starting point. How do we keep going forward now?” wrote publication El Espectador.
The Cauca killings
Eleven soldiers were reported dead at the hands of the rebel group in the south-western Colombian state of Cauca on Wednesday. The deadly combat followed an apparent rebel attack, which is a violent breach of a unilateral ceasefire called by the guerrillas in December through their negotiations with the government.
The group commenced formal peace talks with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos in November 2012 to seek a successful end to the conflict that has lasted over 50 years.
Both warring parties agreed in November last year to be seeking a de-escalation of conflict to prevent violence from disrupting the talks, resulting in the FARC’s calling of a unilateral ceasefire in December.
Wednesday’s deadly combat is therefore a clear violation of the agreed ceasefire, destroying the peace hopes of Colombians who were under the impression that negotiations had reached a positive “point of no return,” as was stated by Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre last month.
Colombians in despair
In a survey commissioned by El Tiempo and W Radio, 61.8% of Colombians stated that they consider the ceasefire has now been broken by the FARC through their actions in Cauca.
37.4% of those questioned felt the government should now begin bombing FARC camps again, a decision which Santos made on Wednesday in response to the rebel’s breach of their agreement.
On making the decision, Santos stated that he “will not be pressured by scandalous acts like this to take a decision about a bilateral ceasefire.”
The FARC responded with a letter sent over the internet hours later. “We express an appeal to the government at this time to keep a cool head and not take ill-considered measures that could jeopardize the progress of the talks and the maintenance of a unilateral cease-fire,” said the guerilla group.
24.8% of Colombians in the aforementioned survey thought that the Havana peace talks should in fact be suspended in response to the FARC attack.
The killings — “a bucket of cold water” over Colombia’s peace aspirations according to El Tiempo — have raised questions amongst Colombia’s media that have remained lingering since the negotiations began in 2012.
“Are there existent guerrilla groups acting on their own, away from the central command?” asked El Espectador.
“Do these groups have a degree of autonomy so high that they can carry out attacks that put in risk (and in absurdity) the declarations that their representatives make to the media? Do they want everyone to enter into the logic of the peace process and the phasing out of bullet fire or not?” the Colombian news source questioned.
The killing of the soldiers in Cauca did not only give evidence of the “lack of honor of the FARC to respect their word, but also their ability to break the trust of a society that waits to finally feel the true commitment of the guerrilla in the search for the end of conflict and peace,” said editorial El Colombiano, also noting that social networks “boiled” with public outrage at the news of the attacks.
“What society can embrace a counterpart that fires when their enemy has said that they can sleep easy because they will not be attacked?” the paper asked, referring to the government’s suspension of bombings on FARC camps.
The dismay continues through a series of rhetorical questions that scream of disappointment and disillusionment.
“How can the FARC hurt a community that today the whole world gives their hope to end a conflict of over half a century? How can they kill good faith, the proposals to accept them into Colombian society? Will they not realize that the demoralizing and frightening language of violence every day adds more to the death toll of our conflict?” El Colombiano wrote.
Cali publication El Pais stated that “We Colombians feel cheated. They told us they had declared a unilateral ceasefire, which was answered by the government with the suspension of bombings by the Air Force. But they end up massacring those who are required to patrol the Colombian territory to guarantee our safety.”
The slaughter happened in a moment in which “the illusion of turning the page of conflict was starting to take roots amongst Colombians,” according to the publication.
Editorial: Cuánta barbarie (El Tiempo)
OPINÓMETRO COLOMBIA SURVEY (W Radio)