Chapter 5: “The Peace Process in Colombia and U.S.


Chapter written by Cynthia J. Arnson

Powerpoint by Zach Nixon

The Peace Process During the Pastrana Years: An Overview
• 1998 Election: Andres

Pastrana vows to negotiate an end to the guerrillaparamilitary violence in Colombia. Pastrana meets with FARC founder and leader Manuel Marulanda, and, once elected president, and agrees to meet with guerrillas in Colombia. • January 1999: Pastrana travels to the despeje to meet with Marulanda, only to be stood up by the leader. Consequently, paramilitary groups carry out a brutal wave of violence. Formal peace talks stall until

The Peace Process During the Pastrana Years: An Overview
• February 2000: Focusing on Colombia’s

socioeconomic structure, FARC commanders travel to European capitals to see European social democracy; leaders also experience criticisms of their human rights and drug trafficking records • March 2000: Members of Colombia’s private sector travel to the despeje to meet with FARC and discuss agrarian and social policies. • In response, FARC promotes “Law 002,” which requires affluent Colombians to pay a peace tax or face kidnapping.

The Peace Process During the Pastrana Years: An Overview
• September 2000: A

rebel prisoner escapes from jail, hijacks a plane and lands it in the despeje. • February 2001: Pastrana and Marulanda sign an agreement to accelerate peace talks. • UN and many European and Latin American countries send representatives to the despeje to meet with FARC—United

The Peace Process During the Pastrana Years: An Overview
March 2001-February

2002: Peace talks continue in the shadow of paramilitary and guerrilla violence. Pastrana continues to reauthorize the despeje. September 2001: FARC kills Consuelo Araujo Noguera; Colombians call for

The Peace Process During the Pastrana Years: An Overview
January 2002: Pastrana gives FARC 48

hours to abandon the despeje; UN, foreign ambassadors, and Catholic Church help to negotiate a cease fire with a deadline of April 2002. February 20, 2002: FARC guerrillas hijack an airliner and take Senator Jorge Eduardo Gechem Turbay hostage.

Possible Reasons for the February 20th Hijacking

The hijacking was an effort to sabotage negotiations set for April 20th. “FARC was simply conducting business as usual…as if they had no bearing on the peace process” (140). Consequence: Pastrana chastises Marulanda for his “arrogance and lies, and ends the peace process by sending armed forces to take over the despeje.

US Initiatives in Support of Peace
 Policy makers dealing with Colombia choose to

model their policies after their experience with war and peace in El Salvador.  Strategy: Because a military defeat of guerrillas look impossible, approach negotiations by politically engaging insurgents.  However, the US still pushed for modernization and professionalization of the military to catalyze the peace process. Why?

US Initiatives for Peace
Fostering dialogue among Colombians over strategies for peace and policy reform (The “Houston Process”). ii. Opening of direct contact with the FARC in December 1998 iii. Financing projects to give instant relief to civilians throughout conflict zones (OTI, AID)

The “Houston Process”
“What do the gringos really want?”
 “The answer—although few may believe it…is

that they are trying to help Colombians find their own solution to their problems using their own resources” (143).

US Relations with the FARC
 December 1998: FARC and US State

Department Members meet secretly in Costa Rica.  February 1998: Three U.S. activists are kidnapped and executed; FARC claims at least partial responsibility.  This ends American contact with the FARC. “I don’t know if the political climate in Washington will ever change, absent changes in Colombia.” -A U.S. official in Bogotá, when asked whether US policy regarding contact with the

AID’s Office of Transition Initiatives
OTI, answering requests from the

Colombian government, addressed the needs of local areas of high conflict.
 OTI served to establish “confidence that there are

institutions willing to work with people to help re-build their lives, and restoring their faith that the peace process can yield positive and tangible results.” (146)

Washington withdraws OTI from

participation in a small project in the despeje, showing the political limits to the peace process.

US Concerns With and Approaches to the Colombian Peace Policy
 Cancellation of OTI project in the despeje showed U.S.

was afraid of being “perceived as tacitly accepting guerrilla participation in US-funded initiatives” (147).  U.S. was unwilling to offer incentives for negotiations to the guerrillas.  U.S. wanted to increase pressure on FARC to negotiate via military pressure  “Tactical defeats suffered by the government security forces at the hands of the FARC in recent years has emboldened the FARC and provided little incentive for the to engage in meaningful or substantive peace negotiations with the GOC.” –General Charles Wilhelm

US Concerns With and Approaches to the Colombian Peace Policy (cont.)
 U.S. policy makers were concerned with economic

gains the FARC was making via connections with narco-trafficking.
 “If the FARC was earning $200 million a year, what were

the incentives to throw in the towel and become potato farmers?” (149).

 Two perspectives blended together during the

Clinton administration to form policies in Colombia: the strengthening of Colombian security forces, as well as an emphasis on counternarcotics to weaken the guerrillas and paramilitaries.
 These perspectives came together in Plan Colombia.

Plan Colombia
“The focus of this chapter could leave the

impression that the Clinton administration policy toward Colombia had as its central organizing principle the peace process. Nothing could be farther from the truth…the only issue in Colombia that was portrayed as directly affecting vital U.S. interests was drugs” (149).

Plan Colombia
During the first four years of his

administration, Clinton resisted pressures from war hawks to provide Colombia with more sophisticated equipment. As coca cultivation expanded by 50% between 1996 and 1998, however, pressures for modernization of Colombian armed forces grew.

Key Points Regarding Clinton’s Plan Colombia
U.S. administration officials called for a

strategies addressing Colombia’s multiple crises, not just drugs. This idea helped policies gain leverage in Congress and Colombia. U.S. involvement was not simply limited to a Latin American Marshall Plan. Despite this, however, Plan Colombia was defined by it’s spending on military assistance.

Key Points Regarding Clinton’s Plan Colombia (cont.)

Reactions to Plan Colombia
Pastrana to the Washington Post: “the aid

package the United States [proposes] is not a military package; it’s an anti-narcotics package” (151). Other nations took offense to the U.S. bilateral plan; Non-U.S. contributions to Plan Colombia were a third of what was expected. In response, European governments increased diplomatic involvement in the peace process.

Bush Administration’s Plan Colombia Policy
 “Until the terrorist attacks of September 11

changed the tone and focus of U.S. policy in Colombia, the Bush administration largely stayed the course set by President Clinton” (153).  Bush redressed the gap between economic and military aid to Colombia, but by less than 2%.
(In Millions) 2000 2002 Military/Police Economic/Socia l Percentage Military 765.49 214.31 78.12% 401.93 120.30 76.96%


Bush Administration Policy Following September 11, 2001
 “[FARC ] is the most dangerous international

terrorist group based in this hemisphere” -State Department for Counterterrorism Francis X. Taylor
 “We’re not going to engage in counter-

insurgency in Colombia because there is no insurgency in Colombia…What you have is three terrorist groups that operate as organized crime families…these are not insurgents. These are criminals. These are terrorists.” -Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich

Whither the Peace Process
 2002: Álvaro Uribe takes

office in Colombia.  U.S. Intelligence concludes that, while “Marulanda [was] telling the truth,” Pastrana allowed paramilitary forces to double in size, giving them political power throughout Colombia (155).  U.S. must focus on all non-state armed actors, left and right, not just the battle

The Fate of Colombia
A future, comprehensive peace process will

only function if:
The Colombia government combats violent

actors on both the left and right. The United States:
 combats paramilitarism  pursues economic policies to expand the economy

beyond alternative development  is willing to engage FARC politically and diplomatically  Supporting agrarian and tax reform, not just drug reform

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