This week Villavicencio had no water. Even though the city is
surrounded by rich water sources, the FARC bombed the water supply,
leaving significant parts of the city without access to the valuable
resource. The crisis even led to 250 children being poisoned.
The episode in Villavicencio, in which the FARC negatively affected
the living conditions of thousands of members of civil society
raises, once again, the question at the core of the Colombian armed
conflict: What is the FARC really fighting for?
The unfortunate developments in Villavicencio this week were not the
first or the only in which the FARC have directly acted against
principles of social justice and of respect to the lives of everyday
Colombians. As a matter of fact, most of their actions in recent
years could be categorized similarly. Yet, the bombing of the water
plant in Villavicencio serves as a remainder that the FARC has
distanced radically from acting in support of the development of
While the FARC often uses rhetoric to create an illusion that the
larger goal justifying its existence is an overhaul of Colombia,
which would result in a more equitable and just society for all, such
rhetoric has been highly delegitimized by its apparent disconnection
to the guerrilla’s actions. In Villavicencio, where the
guerrilla was leaving the citizens without water, and where the
government was trying to solve the problem, it seemed quite clear
that FARC was at the wrong side of history.
The most poignant lesson from the events in Villavicencio refers
directly to FARC’s existence, and its understanding of its own
role in Colombian society. Does the guerrilla really believe that
their actions are leading towards the nation’s improvement? Is
that even possible, when judging their actions? And, if the FARC is
aware that their actions have harmed civilians throughout Colombia,
have they already tacitly given up on transforming society and
playing a role within its legal confines?
Most importantly, if FARC has truly lost any will to become a
positive force within Colombian society, how to negotiate with them?
If one understands that the success of peace negotiations rests on
the ability of both sides to offer something to one another, what is
there for the government to offer to the members of a group that
seemingly lack the will of working towards the larger societal
benefit? Lastly, if one believes that the only definite solution to
the current armed conflict requires a negotiated agreement in which
guerrilla members are supported in their reinsertion to civil
society, how to do that with individuals whose actions indicate a
complete disregard for the well-being of the nation’s citizens?
Author Felipe Estefan is Colombian and studies media and international relations in New York