"Members of the security forces and their families have been given equal footing alongside members of the guerrilla and their families [in cases where] both groups suffered harm or had their rights substantially impaired as a consequence of gross human rights violations." - Committee that selected victims to testify at Havana Peace Talks.
The Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) appear closer than ever to a peace agreement after 50 years of conflict. The ongoing talks, which have taken place in Havana, could lead to substantive change. According to the British non-governmental organization Justice for Colombia, several earlier attempts to achieve peace have failed, including the Caguan Peace Talks in 1998-2002.
What is different this time around? The Colombian government has made a concerted effort to enter this round of talks, the first after many violent years, with a tone of mutual respect, rather than one of superiority. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is demonstrating that respect in several ways, through the location of the meeting in Havana, through the composition of the panel, and most importantly, through the inclusion of and focus on testimonials of war victims from both sides of the half-century of conflict.
Although the Santos government does maintain positive relations with Cuba, Havana has an even tighter connection with the FARC, which has maintained a firm alliance with Marxist-Leninist philosophy since its beginnings during agrarian movements of the early 1960s .With a more or less neutral ground established, Santos sent his highest ranking military official, General Javier Florez, to meet face to face with the FARC leaders, a message that the Colombian administration respects the legitimacy of the group. This gesture also opens the door for FARC guerillas to lay down their weapons and reenter society without fear of being exterminated.
Finally, the inclusion of victims' testimonials has taken center stage, stirring up heavy emotions on both sides. The presence of victims at the peace talks represent an acknowledgement that grave injustices have been committed by both sides, not just by the FARC guerillas. A great deal of tension surrounds the failure of the government's right-wing factions to accept responsibility for the alleged crimes and human rights violations. However, Santos' negotiating team has emphasized that a goal for these talks is to "satisfy the victims' rights to truth, remembrance, justice and the admission of responsibilities. Andrés Gaudín addresses the role of the testimonials in the Havana peace talks in this week's issue of NotiSur. See additional coverage of the talks in Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba.
Guatemala's Plan to Privatize Tax-collection System: President Otto Pérez has proposed a plan to privatize the country's tax-collection system to try increase tax revenues, which have fallen below target. Louisa Reynolds tells us about opposition to the plan and related questions of corruption in the latest issue of NotiCen.
Costa Rica: The Report before the Report: Before making public his account of the first 100 days of his administration, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís repeatedly said he was going to tell Costa Ricans the state in which he found the country and what his government's roadmap would be. The opposition prevented Solís from presenting his findings to Congress, so he released the report before an audience of close to 1,000 members of civil-society sectors. Read more from George Rodríguez in NotiCen.
Cartel of Cartels in Mexico: Four of the most notorious and ruthless drug cartels in Mexico have apparently proposed joining forces rather than fighting each other in turf battles. Intelligence reports from the US and Mexican governments indicate that leaders from the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), the Carrillo Fuentes organization (also known as the Juárez cartel), the Beltrán Leyva cartel, and the Zetas held a meeting in the city of Piedras Negras in Coahuila to discuss the possibility of forming some sort of alliance. The latest issue of SourceMex provides more details.
Mexican Court Upholds Ban on GMO Corn: A Mexican federal court handed multinational seed companies another setback with a ruling against the Swiss-based seed company Syngenta, which had appealed a ban on the use of genetically modified (GM) corn in Mexico. Carlos Navarro expands on this development in the latest edition of SourceMex.
Brazilian Elections: The untimely death of Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB) candidate Eduardo Campos has added a new dynamic to the Brazilian elections. Campos' replacement Marina Silva could actually prove to be a more formidable opponent to President Dilma Rousseff (Partido de Trabalhadores, PT), and conservative challenger Aécio Neves (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, PSDB). Silva has a broad base of support thanks to her politics and biography. Her sustainability credentials appeal to urban leftist intellectuals and progressive youth. Gregory Scruggs tells us more about the upcoming Brazilian elections in the latest edition of NotiSur.
The Latin America Data Base (LADB) is one of the longest running premier news and educational services on Latin America. Established in 1986 as a unit of the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico (UNM), LADB has had an internet presence since 1996. LADB features three weekly electronic publications: NotiCen, NotiSur, and SourceMex, and a fully searchable archive of over 28,000 articles that provide timely information and historical perspective on a variety of Latin American issues. LADB is a subscription service made available at no cost to the UNM community. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: "March en Colombia: no mas FARC." Reprinted Attribution © from Alejandro Cortés.
--Posted September 8, 2014. Reprinted from LADB blog post, "Colombian Peace Process Feels Different" written by Jacob Sandler on Friday, September 5, 2014.