Former Colombian President Warns FARC Soon To Dominate Country

Alvaro Uribe, former president of Colombia from 2002 to 2010, criticized the current peace process between the government and FARC rebels and said, regardless of its outcome, FARC will dominate the country by 2018.

Uribe—elected as a senator last year—referred to current negotiations, which began in late 2012, between President Juan Manuel Santos’ government and FARC. The government recently said the process was at a low point amid renewed attacks between both groups.

The former president said more victims would die because the government did not push for more security against FARC:

Every day there are more victims in Colombia. This is not good for the country because they are enthusiastic for new headlines talking about a new round of dialogue supporting victims and everyday they cause more victims.

Santos previously was an official in Uribe’s government, but, after succeeding him in 2010, decided for peace talks with FARC. Angered by this decision, Uribe denounced Santos and formed his own party.

This is not the first time Uribe pressured the government in turning to policies he used as president.

Earlier this year, he met with Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., along with Rep. Henry Cueller, D-Texas, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the latter two also Florida Republicans. Uribe hoped for outside pressure against the peace talks despite being banned from his fellow lawmakers from traveling.

Uribe is losing support among Colombians after allegations of wiretapping political opponents, which potentially can result in jail time. Cesar Julio Valencia, former chief justice of the Colombian Supreme Court, accused the former president’s administration of spying on anyone who did not agree with the government.

In fact, Valencia told Semana he was confident about it:

There is no doubt that the orders to spy on me came from the government,

Uribe denied it ever happened and said any government found to do such an act should face prison time:

If a government orders illegal espionage, then they would go to prison, starting with the president.

Two aides of Uribe were already convicted of spying by a court and more convictions may come.

Currently, as urban Colombians increasing support peace talks, Uribe decided to turn to the extreme right, which includes neo-Nazis, in stopping peace talks. In fact, Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles), a right-wing paramilitary group, wrote a letter where it praised Uribe as the “best president of all time,” while threatening to kill NGO members, politicians, activists and others.

Meanwhile, FARC called for renewed peace talks after a bombing in the capital—allegedly tied to another guerrilla force called the National Liberation Army (ELN)—left eight people injured. The group published a statement citing the importance of peace amid violence:

As we have reiterated on several occasions, in the face of the tragedy brought by war, reason calls for us to work towards the signature of a bilateral ceasefire; it’s logical, sensitive, and what is expected from us.

Image is a Creative Commons Licensed Photo of Alvaro Uribe from the Center for American Progress

‘Life Is Sacred’ Documents Antanas Mockus As He Confronts Institutional Violence in Colombia

Life is Sacred / Trailer from Elk Film on Vimeo.

Antanas Mockus’ presidential campaign in Colombia and his impact in Colombian politics were documented in “Life is Sacred,” which was shown at the Human Rights Watch’s Human Rights Film Festival on June 20.

The documentary, directed by Andreas Dalsgaard, begins in 2010 with Mockus’ campaign, running for the Green Party, against Juan Manuel Santos, the candidate for the incumbent party in power.

A major issue in the election, still existing to this day, is violence committed by the FARC rebel group throughout the country.

FARC, which stands for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, formed in the 1960s in response to a dominant two-party system. Both parties–Liberal and Conservative–shared rule during the Frente Nacional period. This led to a very polarized society, which made groups like FARC frustrated and, in turn, viewed communism and violence as the only alternative.

As a result, more than 200,000 Colombians died and millions more were displaced. Although, it should be noted, officials in government also use paramilitary groups for their own nefarious, and violent, purposes, including protecting mining interests.

In 2002, Alvaro Uribe, noted in the film as one of the most powerful people in the country, became president and immediately used a mano dura, which means “heavy hand,” approach against FARC.

This strategy led to the deaths of civilians. Santos, then-secretary of Defense under Uribe’s administration, offers money to soldiers killing FARC rebels with proof. Soldiers, instead, kill civilians and dress them up in FARC uniforms to claim their prize. U.S. military aid, totaling in the billions, contributed to these “false positives.”

Katherine Miranda, a Green Party youth organizer, is introduced as a central narrator of the film. Her father, a police officer, was killed by guerrilla rebels when she was young.

“In Colombia, violence is a part of society,” Miranda said.

Miranda notes she immediately felt revenge in response to her father’s death, but her mother taught her to first ensure others do not suffer in the same way.

The youth organizer campaigns for the Green Party in 2010 as an organizer where she talks to Colombians about Mockus’ candidacy for president. At one point, she speaks to a man who tells her all politicians in Colombia’s history, even Mockus, only want power. She defends Mockus as different and true to his word, although the person does not believe her.

Antanas Mockus’ history in Colombia is reviewed afterward where he is first shown as the president of the National University of Colombia. In 1993, he, famously, dropped his trousers and mooned an assembly of students in response to a few people causing noise. He told New York Times journalist Simon Romelo:

Innovative behavior can be useful when you run out of words,

After this, Mockus successfully ran as mayor of Bogota, the capital of the country.

Mockus, during his tenure, implemented policies such as forcing every official to denounce corruption or else be fired, which led to the dismissal of corrupt traffic officers. Moreover, he hired more than 400 mimes to direct traffic and reduce accidents. The government also gave “Knights of the Zebra” badges to good taxi drivers, which massively grew in membership.

In an April 29, 1995 article by The New York Times, titled “In Colombia, ‘Anarchist’ Brings Change,” Mockus said he liked the idea of a mayor with “no political commitments,” who “could be a precursor of renovation”:

I have always distrusted people with too much hunger for power, and the political class was no capable of self-renovation.

As Miranda notes, Mockus viewed Bogota as his own classroom to teach everyone valuable lessons. During Mockus’ tenure as mayor, homicide rates in the capital dramatically fell by 70 percent.

Years later, the film shows Mockus as a presidential candidate emphasizing peace and non-violence as methods to stop bloodshed. “Life is sacred” is one major slogan Mockus and his supporters use during the campaign.

“For the future, Colombia’s history will be written with a pencil, not with blood,” Mockus says.

Youths, including Miranda, plan, organize and discuss with Bogota residents why Mockus should be elected over Santos.

Soon Mockus rises in public polls ahead of Santos, even taking a major lead against him. The Santos campaign, however, responds by hiring J.J. Rendon, perhaps equivalent to Frank Luntz in the U.S., where he tells CNN En Espanol there is value in using rumors to counter political opponents.

Rendon, noted as winning more than 20 presidential campaigns across Latin America including Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign in Mexico, uses rumors to his advantage against Mockus. Indeed, Mockus is accused of potentially cutting a popular social welfare program once in office, which scares residents. His supporters re-assure residents it will never happen.

Santos’ campaign, at one point, forces civilians on social welfare to support him at a rally or else lose their benefits.

As election day approaches, Mockus upholds truth and honesty as the best way for his campaign without restoring to aggression. The “Green Wave,” described by Miranda in the film, seems poised to push Mockus into the presidency.

Although, on the day of the election, Santos wins nearly 70 percent of the vote. Mockus’ base feels disappointed by the result and and, initially, Mockus too. Although, he later views the defeat as a lesson for the future.

For youths, they feel disappointed and disillusioned in politics at what they saw was a inevitable victory. During a small meeting, one person calls for Mockus to be, symbolically, killed and new figures be pushed in the party. Miranda, on the other hand, still believes in Mockus and believes a change can still happen. (more…)