Ivan Marquez, head of the FARC delegation, delivered a highly political speech in which he appeared to rip up the agenda for discussion, arguing that peace would not be achieved only through the “silencing of guns” but by remodeling the Colombian economy to reflect the rebels’ communist views.
This was a speech that could have been given in twelve years ago in San Vicente del Caguan, and has left we who were hopeful for a successful conclusion to the discussions more than a little less optimistic than before.
Marquez has been deprived of the limelight of international media for years and took his chance today to deliver the rhetoric you sensed he had been preparing for days and nights under the tarpaulin of his jungle hideout.
The Marxist rebel attacked multinational mining companies, the US, the inequality of Colombian society, and appeared to send us all a clear message: The far left is alive and kicking and will not give up the fight until it achieves it goal subjugating us to its whim.
In the more than 20 minutes of diatribe, Marquez failed to mention the victims of their war, or those kidnapped and still held in the jungle.
There was nothing diplomatic or conciliatory about this opening salvo. “Timochenko‘s” promise that the FARC would arrive at the table without “rancor” or “hatred” now sounds hollow in the extreme.
However, all is not lost. We must not despair just yet.
It was predictable that the FARC would begin by setting out their vision of the world, their dream of a Communist Colombia.
Yes, it was offensive, and yes, it was hypocritical, and no, it will not chime with the view of the millions of Colombians who choose year on year democratically to refuse the manifesto of the hard left.
But, the key question is, will they continue that tone into the negotiations? Humberto de la Calle, the head of the government´s team was clear that if they do then the talks are off, and well, the army will go after them like never before.
The FARC are in last chance saloon. If they want to turn their political views into a platform for future elections these peace talks are their chance to do so.
In short, there is an inherent problem with holding any part of a peace process in public. The FARC, quite frankly, were not going to let the opportunity of a bit of free publicity pass them by.
The discourse today was designed, to borrow the language of American election campaigns, to “fire up the base.”
The FARC are seeking justification for their struggle and it is sad but true that their speech will have appealed to a certain section of Colombian society.
In a democracy these views have a right to be heard. But the FARC have absolutely no right to pretend that they can impose their vision at the negotiating table.
Colombia will not accept it.
So we must hope that once the talks begin in earnest the FARC will face reality and negotiate in earnest, that they will return to the agreed five points of the agenda.
Without doubt these talks have begun badly, but hope remains.