The dossier “The FARC Files” that was launched May 10, 2011 by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) reported strong ties between FARC and both the Venezuelan and the Ecuadorean governments. Despite all of that, relations continue to be good with both countries and the Colombian government doesn’t seem to be willing to do anything about the IISS’ findings. However one may judge Colombia’s actions, they may prove to be the smartest choice.
It is argued that the files cannot be used in a legal process because the chain of custody was broken. If this is so, then all the Colombian government could do is to severe relations with Ecuador and Venezuela, demand and explanation or, and this is quite farfetched, resort to arms.
None would be a suitable choice of action: when diplomatic crises erupted in 2008 (and then some) following the attack on Raul Reyes encampment and the leaking of exactly the same information by the government, Colombia suffered a severe blow on its economy, as trade with Ecuador and Venezuela, at that time of great importance to Colombia’s exporters (especially Venezuela), fell down by quite a bit. This led Colombians to find other markets and to renounce the traditional trade relations, although reluctantly.
Nowadays, trade has been reestablished and it flourishes again with Ecuador (not so much with Venezuela), as it has become the 4th exports destination, even more important than Venezuela. If relations were to suffer like in 2008, then Colombia would see its commerce with these two neighbors crumble. More importantly, Venezuela and Ecuador would also lose a great deal, as Colombia is Venezuela’s second trade partner both in imports and exports (17.% and 11.4% respectively), and Ecuador’s second import partner (10.6%) and fourth export partner (4.9%).
Thus, Colombia’s best bet, both economically and politically, is to not make a big deal about this report. In fact, it is quite similar to the situation with WikiLeaks that the U.S. faces: Many Colombians (and others) already knew what “The FARC Files” are revealing, just as many already knew, in general terms, what WikiLeaks was going to inform. The Colombian government is reacting in a somewhat similar way as the U.S. government did (although there is no chained Bradley Manning nor ambassadors resigning). Santos’ silence may not please many, and may be viewed as immoral, but state relations seldom are, and they are a strategic game that the Colombian administration cannot risk losing now.
In fact, because of this “leak” of information, the Colombian government may well now have the upper hand in regional affairs. Its two neighbors, now strongly collaborating in the war against the illegal groups and drug trafficking, cannot step back from their commitments or they risk confirming what the IISS report says. Indeed, Santos’ silence may well be his ace up his sleeve.