Former Colombia President Alvaro Uribe, who has accused his successor Juan Manuel Santos of “legitimizing terrorists” and “handing over the country” to rebel group FARC, in 2006 offered to demilitarize an area for talks and block the extradition of rebel leaders, documents leaked on Sunday showed.
The documents were released by Semana columnist Daniel Coronell, a long-time critic of the former President.
Uribe’s then-Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo, now on the run from justice for faking the demobilization of a FARC unit days before the 2006 elections, was put in charge of the talks with the FARC.
“We believe the conditions exist to organize a meeting in which we can discuss issues like the following:
- Conditions to demilitarize a meeting zone
- Security for FARC representatives
- Security for the residents in the area
- Proposals for a humanitarian accord
- Government position on the extradition of FARC members in relation to a peace deal
- Viability of a ceasefire with government reciprocity
- Government’s point of view on the (armed?) conflict
- And steps towards a successful peace process”
However, Uribe was also personally involved in several meetings that were supposed to secure contact between the Presidential Palace and senior FARC commander Pablo Catatumbo, who is currently in Cuba taking part in peace talks with the Santos administration.
The former president met personally on at least two occasions with Henry Acosta, a Cali economist and former local government official, who was put in charge of making physical contact with Catatumbo and delivering government proposals to the FARC.
In 2006, once contact had been established, Restrepo sent the FARC a proposal to demilitarize 868 square kilometers (335 square miles) in the southwestern Valle del Cauca state, less than 20 miles east of Colombia’s third largest city, Cali.
During peace talks with the FARC between 1999 and 2002, the administration of former President Andres Pastrana allowed the demilitarization for an area 18 times that size.
Uribe has been a consistent critic of demilitarizing areas, claiming this would allow the FARC a military advantage.
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Acosta’s mission was suspended in 2007 when the government decided to pursue contact with the FARC leadership using the mediation of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and then-Senator Piedad Cordoba who by then had begun negotiating the release of hostages held by the FARC.
While Acosta was trying to promote peace talks with the FARC, a second negotiator, Swiss diplomat Jean Pierre Gontard, was sent to establish contact with a second top commander of the FARC, “Alfonso Cano.” who would become the FARC’s supreme leader in 2008 after the death of founder Manuel Marulanda.
According to Gontard, the government suspended all military activity in FARC-controlled areas on three occasions to allow the mediator safe passage.
Uribe subsequently accused Chavez, Cordoba and Gontard of having ties to the FARC.
Leaked American cables from the US Embassy in Bogota had already revealed that Uribe in 2010, months before leaving office, was preparing “roadmaps” to help his successor pursue peace agreements with both the FARC and ELN.
While in office between 2002 and 2010, Uribe led a number of the Colombian state’s most successful offensives against the FARC.
However, as he became politically marginalized after the end of his terms in office, and an increasing amount of political allies got in legal trouble over paramilitary ties, illegal spying, corruption and the extrajudicial killings of thousands of civilians, Uribe assumed a hard-line approach and categorically rejected his successor’s peace talks.
The former president was elected senator in March and is currently leading almost 40 loyal lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate.