Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba’s close relation to Venezuela president Hugo Chavez is what made her not win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, says Adam Isacson, program director of the Washington-based Center for International Policy.
“Poor Piedad. She has to wait for one year more”, Isacson says with a grin. If she had won, the good thing would have been that it would have been a signal to president Uribe to change his politics, he states, “but the closeness to Chávez was a bad thing.”
Chavez did the trick
According to Isacson, who has focused years of his work on Colombia and its violent conflict, Cordoba was a worthy candidate. “She did a lot, but there remains much to be done to get the other hostages free. More achievements would have been necessary.”
It is striking, he agrees, that the Senator abroad seems to meet more sympathy than in her own country, where many seem to hate her. “But in Washington the doors neither swing open for her.” Only a couple of Democrats receive her in their office, he states.
“You see, Chavez is the new Fidel Castro. She should have taken a more critical distance to Chavez. Her closeness to him was also an obstacle to participate in the consulta liberal,” the Liberal Party primary.
Isacson thinks the candidate of the leftwing party Polo Democrático Alternativo, Gustavo Petro, took a wiser position. “He took a distance when Chávez was visiting Teheran frequently and when he started to shut down media.”
No easy solution to the conflict
Many Colombians accuse Piedad Córdoba of supporting the FARC, but the truth is more complicated than that, the expert says.
“It is too subtle for many people to understand”, Isacson says. “If you want a dialogue you have to establish trust and be friendly. That means slapping on the backs and joking. But standing with a guerrilla baret in front of the camera is clearly not well thought of,” he concludes, referring to a photo Cordoba made with prominent members of the FARC while mediating the release of hostages.
The current Colombian government’s efforts to defeat the FARC militarily is more difficult than many people think, Isacson says. “It will take 10 to 20 years to talk about surrender terms.”
On the other hand, it is not an option to start negotiations that will put an end to the war and make the guerrilla’s participàtion in Colombian politics possible. “They have committed the most horrendous crimes against humanity. Colombians hate them so much.”
That the situation is quite a complicated one and neither of the above mentioned strategies offer the solution does not surprise Isacson. “This is Colombia,” he says laughingly.
Now that president Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. peace politicy regarding Colombia should focus on establishing a dialogue, says Isacson.
“Firstly, the US should make it clear to Uribe that he should move towards dialogue and support him in this. Secondly they should look for a mediator. The Church is the next best option here. But it has been a mistake of the Church to be too much on Uribe’s side. The Church has lost credibility towards the guerrilla because of that. The mediator should work silently, out of the public.” This mediator could be the Secretary General of the United Nations, a European or Brasil, Isacson thinks.
“But,” he states with an ironic smile “they have been doing the opposite. It is still about defeating terrorism.”
Isacson thinks it is not likely the U.S.’ policy towards Colombia will change. “I hope for changes and peace talks, but the right wing and the Pentagon in the United States would make a lot of noise. And every poll in Colombia shows that people suppòrt mr. Uribe’s reelection. 46 percent says he is the only one who can run the country, 65 percent says it will vote the refendum and 80 percent says it will vote for Uribe! There is no competition. The only thing that can stop this is the Constitutional Court” which has to determine if the referendum in which Colombians can say if a second reelection is possible can be held.
Because of the current scandals – the illegal wiretappings, agricultural subsidies for rich families, etc – it might be that Uribe needs a second round, Isacson thinks, and that would be the first time for the current Head of State.
“Also the people who have voted for Uribe in the past are angry about the scandals,” says the expert.
But if Uribe is reelected, he can forget his Free Trade Agreement with the United States. “He will kill it. That is just impossible.”