Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said Sunday that Colombia and Venezuela must cooperate in an effort to battle those members of rebel group FARC who flee into Venezuela after carrying out attacks. Pinzon also accused the FARC of “demented” policies and said that “it seems as if the FARC hates the poor.”
Speaking during an interview with newspaper El Tiempo, Pinzon stated that the FARC use neighboring countries to escape from Colombia’s security forces. “In the FARC’s case, half of their leadership isn’t even [in Colombia] right now. Sixty percent are outside of the country,” he said.
The Defense Minister emphasized that there has been reasonably good cooperation between Colombia and their neighbors Panama and Ecuador, but said that he wished that “it were so in all cases.”
“In a recent visit that Venezuelan authorities made to Colombia, we told them frankly that the FARC’s 59th bloc passes back and forth across the border and tries to murder Colombians citizens…We are hoping that there will be collaboration in the fight against the FARC in the border states of La Guajira, Cesar and Arauca.”
“This is not acceptable,” said Pinzon. “And it requires cooperation between both nations.”
Venezuela has aided Colombia in their fight with FARC in the past. In 2004, Venezuelan police famously arrested the FARC’s current ‘foreign minister’ and spokesman, Ricardo Gonzales, alias “Rodrigo Granada,” and subsequently turned him over to the Colombian police. Granada is currently representing the FARC in peace talks between the rebel group and the government in Havana, Cuba.
Due to recent attacks as part of the FARC’s ‘Black October’ offensive, Pinzon and the government have not only ramped up their own military presence but also reached out to other countries to help prevent guerrilla leaders from escaping across borders.
“The FARC Seems to Hate the Poor”
Pinzon also reflected on an ongoing situation in the Tumaco municipality in the state of Nariño, on the southwestern border with Ecuador. The town of Tumaco has been left without power or water for two weeks now after FARC attacks. Pinzon stated that the rebel group must have a vendetta against the poor.
“The FARC seems to hate the poor,” Pinzon said. He called their activity “demented,” saying that allowing these towns to go without water or power hurts the poorest people the most.
“It seems that everything that [the FARC] does is to make it so that the poorest people cannot bounce back, so that they cannot hold down jobs, or have a different road [out of poverty.]”
In terms of progress against the FARC, the Defense Minister said: “We are moving forward.”
“If you look at the statistics, you can see that close to 91% of [Colombia’s] territory is now free from acts of terror, that means that the effort of the armed forces has been having success in liberating the country from this situation,” Pinzon said.
He claimed that the armed forces have taken down 37 FARC high commanders in the past three years and demobilized nearly 2000 soldiers.
“Whether Through Reason or Through Force, Colombia Must Have Peace.”
On the subject of the peace talks between the government and the FARC, Pinzon said that the army’s role would be decided by President Juan Manuel Santos as commander-in-chief. But he did say that peace cannot be achieved if the rebel group does not ultimately surrender their weapons.
“It is not viable” to allow the FARC to keep their arms, and “it would be an attack on Colombia’s constitution,” he claimed.
Pinzon concluded that the most important thing is peace for the Colombian people, and that achieving peace is the sole goal of the government.
“The FARC must realize that whether through reason or through force, Colombia must have peace.”
Peace talks between the rebel group and the Colombian government will have been running for a whole year on November 18. Just one point of the six-point agenda has been agreed upon thus far. After a month of concentrated attacks and bloodshed the FARC on Sunday asked for a ceasefire during the peace talks to speed up the process.
During the failed 1998-2002 peace talks between the FARC and the government of ex-president Andres Pastrana, the FARC were given a Switzerland-sized demobilization zone in southwestern Colombia as part of a general ceasefire, which the government later accused the FARC of using in order to expand and recruit more troops.
In April, President Santos expressed his misgivings over the idea of a ceasefire: “In the past the ceasefires were subject to eternal discussion and [the FARC] used them to strengthen and take in air and keep on going in their strategy of reaching power through violence. We will not allow this.”