Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe, one of the loudest opponents of peace talks between the government and FARC rebels, can actually claim credit for them, according to an ex-U.S. ambassador to Colombia.
Former President Alvaro Uribe’s belligerent approach toward FARC guerrillas during his eight years in office (2002-2010) has helped create the conditions for the impending peace talks, ex-U.S. ambassador Myles Frechette told Colombia Reports Monday.
“Believe me, the guerrillas would not be talking about a peace process today if they had not been so diminished by the Colombian armed forces,” said Frechette. “Uribe is responsible for the reduction in [FARC] strength.”
“It was only with Plan Colombia and American help that they professionalized the Colombian armed forces,” claimed the former diplomat, referring to the multi-billion dollar military aid package that began in the late 1990s and continued under Uribe.
“Uribe was the first really capable, strong man who ran the country and ran that government as a single entity,” argued Frechette, who led the U.S. diplomatic mission in Colombia during the administration of Ernesto Samper (1994 to 1998).
“When I was trying to deal with Samper, it was very clear that each minister did whatever the hell they wanted…Uribe gave his government coherence and unity and a program. And that is one of his big contributions to Colombia.”
However, even if one accepts Frechette’s argument that the hard-line policies of the last decade weakened FARC to the point where they were willing to negotiate, it must be said that peace talks were never an aim for Uribe.
On the contrary, Uribe has been one of the most outspoken critics of the current peace process. In a recent interview, the former head of state compared FARC to Al-Qaeda, “What is the difference between the attacks on the Twin Towers and the FARC bomb at the El Nogal club?” Uribe asked.
When questioned about Uribe’s vocal disapproval of the peace process, Frechette explained, “Uribe has no sense of the outside world, he truly does not…He’s certainly going to do everything he can to make sure these talks don’t walk.”
Phase two of negotiations will begin in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on October 8. Talks are then set to continue in Havana in 2013.