Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe was secretly seeking direct peace talks with the leaders of the FARC and ELN, while the FARC sought contact with the U.S., leaked diplomatic cables sent from the U.S. embassy in Bogota to Washington obtained by WikiLeaks show.
According to one cable, sent on January 5 by former U.S. ambassador to Bogota William Brownfield, he was told by peace commissioner Frank Pearl that the government (GOC) had been “focused on developing communication channels and building confidence with both terrorist organizations.”
According to Brownfield, Uribe was preparing “roadmaps” for the incoming administration, that would succeed his in August, on how best to pursue peace agreements, and the talks with the rebel groups were part of this.
In the cable the ambassador said that Pearl had indicated that both guerrilla groups had responded to government proposals with the same four minimum conditions for a peace agreement:
- “The GOC must be willing to give its unambiguous and unanimous support for the agreement. Signing a peace agreement, Pearl emphasized, was just the beginning of the process and the terrorist groups have, because of historical precedent, a deep distrust of the GOC’s good faith.”
- “The military must be included in the process, a reminder that the Colombian Army opposed and worked against civilian-led peace talks in the 1980s and 1990s.”
- “Both groups seek participation by the private sector, which they view as the true power behind Colombian politics.”
- “The ELN and FARC want some form of international accompaniment for the process. Pearl foresees a positive role for the international community once the process has reached a sufficient level of maturity. International well-wishers coming in too early, he stressed, could aggravate the delicate process. Regarding a U.S. role, he said that both groups were interested in an agreement with the United States over illegal drug cultivation, which they viewed as a social problem.”
A month later, a cable was sent wherein the embassy said that Pearl had said that the Colombian government and FARC were close to agreeing to meet in Sweden.
According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, which was given exclusive access to the cables, the FARC publicly turned down a meeting abroad in April.
According to a cable dated February 9, 2010, Uribe told U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg that the FARC “would never negotiate as long as it enjoyed a safe haven in Venezuela coupled with a steady income from drug trafficking.”
“Uribe said Chavez’ support of the guerrillas had frustrated further GOC military progress against them. The President accepted that U.S. security assistance had decreased in recent years, but urged the United States not to back down in what was a ‘winnable battle,'” the cable said.
The FARC also sought direct contact with the U.S. Embassy, a fourth cable showed.
In 2009, “Pablo Catatumbo,” a member of the FARC secretariat and commander of the guerrillas’ eastern bloc through a messenger tells U.S. embassy political counselor John Creamer that the FARC commander wanted to establish a “relationship” with the embassy that “could prove useful in the future.” According to the cable, the Colombian government was aware of the meeting. The middleman “said Catatumbo is convinced that USG participation in any eventual peace process with the GOC would be key to success.”