If Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe is willing to recognize the FARC‘s ideology, peace talks can be held and the 45-year-old conflict can come to an end, says Antanas Mockus, former Bogota mayor and possible presidential candidate.
Despite the successes of Uribe’s military approach to combat the guerrillas, Mockus is not convinced of a soon end of Colombia’s 45-year old violent conflict.
“They (the FARC) have not completely been defeated, but they did lose all credibility. We have seen that in the marches of the 4th of February (2008). They should have the wisdom to send signals of the will to negotiate, like M19 did at its time. In the eigthies the FARC made like a business plan about how to get to power. Now they don’t have to be slaves of that plan.”
According to Mockus, Colombia does not necessarily need a change of Presidency to have peace. Uribe, who came to power with his promise to beat the FARC once and forever, is able to do that too. “Negotiations are possible when the ideology is taken seriously. If Uribe doesn’t accept that, it will be impossible. Otherwise it is equally possible with Uribe.”
The former mayor is very careful to criticize the right wing president, let alone accuse of him of ties with paramilitarism, as a number of political opponents and non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) have done. But “Uribe defended the Convivir” – legal paramilitary groups in Antioquia. “As governor of Antioquia he was close to them.”
When the peace negotiations between the Pastrana government and the FARC were interrupted, the FARC said that the fight was going to be bloody and that the legal forces wouldn’t be capable of controlling the paramilitaries.” In this, the guerrillas were right, Mockus affirms. “Uribe negotiated with the paramilitaries when he came to power. They demobilized, but not all. There are still places where they rule after eight o’ clock in the evening.”
Mockus observes Uribe’s role as ambiguous: “He is a leader who sympathizes or at least doesn’t take a distance from the paramilitaries. Of course there are people whom he would prefer not to support him, but there is a kind of flirt. And now there is a cleansing of the language. They are not talking about paramilitaries anymore, but emerging gangs. And the word falsos positivos: positivo in the army means that you killed an enemy. That it is something to celebrate. But it is a human life you took.” And there the fresh Green Pary member arrives at his favorite subject: citizen’s culture.
As a mayor of Bogotá Antanas Mockus was recognized because of the ‘citizen’s culture’ he brought to the Bogotanos. And in the Green Party’s congress it has also been asigned as one of the priorities, he tells, “together with education.”
He explains what he means with citizens’ culture: “What are the limits with which I get into contact with an unknown person?” This is important, he states. “In the rural areas you see that the social rules are very ad hoc. That is because of the instability the country is living in: refugees who flee the violence and drugs trafficking.” People don’t know eachother and distrust eachother very much. Mockus, who was also rector of the Universidad Nacional, explains. “The subitlety in social contacts has been affected and as a consequence there is more violence. You also see it in the soapseries: those who have the power to use violence define what happens.”
Citizen’s culture means for example that hate has to disappear. Not easy in a country with a huge amount of killings, kidnappings and disappearances and as a consequence a lot of pain. Antanas Mockus is very aware of that. “For example, the woman who sees the murderer of her husband walk by every day, in her husband’s jacket. It is very hard to repair such a crime. I believe profoundly that respect means especially that you respect the other. When I use too much water, I cause harm to others. When I kill somebody, I cause harm to the whole family.”
That brings the former mayor to another consideration: “Here a person’s solidarity concerns almost only his family. I think this country should learn to suffer more because of what happens to unknown people. We need to construct a public sense.”
Formally speaking, Antanas Mockus is completely right, but the expectations are that he will run for presidency, which he has done a couple of times before. His political partner Lucho Garzón will run for the senate and the other ex mayor and third political partner, Enrique Peñalosa, wants another term in Bogotá’s mayor’s house. ‘The triplets’, as they are called, or ‘the three tenors’ joined forces to present an alternative to the normal chaotic and clientelist political spectre and also against president Uribe’s second re-election ambition. It is called the Green Party. Why do three ideologically quite different former mayors join forces? Lucho garzón comes from the left (he abandoned the Polo Democrático Alternativo because of ideological differences) and Mockus and Peñalosa from the centre. “How serious it will be then,” the always serene Mockus says, mockingly. Then in his analytical and careful way of speaking again: “We agree that Uribe III as far as the institutional and social issue is concerned at least is risky.”