A demilitarized zone is an indispensable component of any successful peace negotiation between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas, said a leading expert on the armed conflict Tuesday.
“Without the demilitarized zone (DMZ) there is virtually an impossibility of real peace being achieved,” James Brittain, author of “Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia: The Origin and Direction of the FARC-EP,” told Colombia Reports.
“I think a DMZ is an absolute necessity,” Brittain contended. “If you were serious about peace, [a DMZ] is what you would have to create. You would have to create a zone where people could actually lay down their weapons and not have to worry about organizing a [war] campaign.”
Notwithstanding the fact that phase two of the current negotiations are set to take place in the neutral location of Norway, Brittain believed a DMZ in Colombian territory was warranted. “If the Santos government was really serious, there would be a DMZ.”
A DMZ was one of the pillars of the last formal peace negotiations between FARC and the Colombian government, which began and ended during the presidency of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002). Pastrana afforded the guerrillas a DMZ approximately the same size as Switzerland, known colloquially as “Farclandia.”
“I think Pastrana was brilliant in saying that we have to organize some type of geographical space where we can sit and talk…and not have to cease negotiations because there’s a military campaign going on at the same time,” said Brittain.
During the Pastrana talks, Colombian and U.S. authorities reported that the FARC violated the terms upon which the DMZ were created, using the area to traffic arms and narcotics. Brittain took a different perspective, arguing that under the DMZ, FARC provided essential services to the 90,000 Colombians living there and invested in critical infrastructure. He also pointed out that Farclandia was largely controlled by FARC even before it was designated as a DMZ.
The notion of a DMZ in the 2012 negotiations has received little traction in the media and within Juan Manuel Santos‘ administration. President Santos has repeatedly asserted that the armed forces will not cease hostilities while the peace talks are underway.