Following an escalation of violence that led to the FARC‘s suspension of its unilateral ceasefire on Friday, opinions in Colombia’s politics are as divided as never before.
While the leftist opposition to President Juan Manuel Santos‘ centrist government urged the necessity for a bilateral ceasefire, the conservative opposition reiterated its call for a renegotiation of terms
The conservative consensus has been that the FARC never effectively imposed a unilateral truce, which made Santos’ initial suspension of air strikes illegitimate in the first place.
FARC truce a ‘farce’
While the FARC said they have been forced to lift the unilateral ceasefire in response to these attacks, Zuluaga claimed that the FARC never abided by it in the first place, and that the attacks were thus warranted considering that the FARC have long been cheating the system anyway.
“The FARC never, never have respected the truce, but rather have continuously killed soldiers and extorted Colombians,” Zuluaga told press.
Former Colombian president and current senator Alvaro Uribe, the ideological leader of the Democratic Center, expressed condolences for the victims of the attack, saying how any death, regardless of which side it’s on, is never a good thing.
The former head of state furthermore suggested via Colombian radio station RCN that minimizing the amount of people involved in negotiations could help decrease criminal action in the future.
Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez, a staunch conservative with friendly ties to the right-wing opposition, had a virtually identical stance on the matter to that of the Democratic Center.
According to Ordoñez, the guerrilla group never really stopped killing, kidnapping, and extorting innocent civilians, trafficking drugs, and recruiting children to fight on the front lines. It was merely a “trick” meant to paralyze the opposition, Ordoñez was quoted was saying via Radio Santa Fe.
FARC lacked initiative
The overall consensus of the Conservative Party, also in the opposition, was to provide full support behind President Manuel Santos’ decision to continue bombing FARC guerrillas in the midst of ongoing peace talks in Havana, Cuba.
The attacks took place just over a month after a FARC ambush in the same province led to the deaths of 11 soldiers and two guerrillas.
Conservative Party president David Barguil showed little sympathy for the victims of the attacks, claiming that it is up to the FARC to decide whether peace can really be achieved, but until this point they have shown no such initiative.
“The FARC are increasingly yearning to find peace with the president, which is why the conservative party insists that we define the terms NOW!” said Barguil via his Twitter account.
— DAVID BARGUIL ASSIS (@davidbarguil) Mayo 22, 2015
Marta Lucia Ramirez, the Conservative Party presidential candidate in 2014 and former defense minister under Uribe, had a similar stance to Barguil on the need to re-establish terms in the talks, but was more critical of President Santos for moving along the talks too slowly.
“As I’d always said in my presidential campaign, the negotiation table must be rethought with added humanitarian conditions and a deadline with reasonable expectations about the conclusion,” said Ramirez via her website.
How the left thinks opposite
The leftist opposition, which largely supported Santos’ successful reelection big in 2014, proposed to agree on a bilateral ceasefire for the duration of the talks while stressing a continuation of the process that has been ongoing since November 2012.
“By now the country has been witness to the negotiation process and has seen that progress has been made. Withdrawal from the table should not be considered by any party,” said Clara Lopez, director of the social-democratic Polo Democratico party.
Lopez added that her party will represent “the voices of the victims of the conflict which in various precedents have brought their message to Havana with the aim to further negotiations, and by no means should these voices be silenced at the table.”
Claudia Lopez, Senator of the center-left Green Party, said the bombing of the 26 guerrillas is a painful shock that in no way should be celebrated. She urged, like Clara Lopez, to further the peace talks.
Senator Ivan Cedepa, a victims rights activist and member of the Democratic Pole, emphasized what consequences the suspension of the ceasefire could have on “at least 10 provinces” that “will be at risk because of the suspension the ceasefire.”
Cedepa referred to a statement made earlier by Colombia’s ombudsman, Jorge Armando Otalora.
Imminent risk of combat
In this statement, Otalora said that the provinces of Antioquia, Cauca, Choco and Valle del Cauca in the west, Arauca, Meta and Caquetá in the center-south and Putumayo, Huila, Nariño in the southwest are under imminent threat of a resumed armed conflict.
“A risk scenario is envisioned for possible attacks against the security forces. These attacks will probably not discriminate between the civilian population (…) it is necessary to mitigate the impact of confrontation, to protect citizens and international humanitarian law,” says Otalora.
Despite some non-compliance, the official acknowledged the “goodness” of unilateral termination offered by the FARC, “which is reflected in the decrease in terrorist attacks, less damages to the energy and oil infrastructure, as well as fewer respect the deaths of fighters, “he added.
According to the Ministry of Defense, between January and April 2015 there was a 47% reduction in the number of casualties, going from 116 members of the security forces killed in acts of service during 2014, to 61 in the same period of this year.
“Despite the current situation, it is necessary to persist in the negotiations,” said Otalora who urged the parties to, in a humanitarian sense, seek mechanisms to move as soon as possible to “a definitive and sustainable de-escalation that will allow relief situations as accidents with landmines.”