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Colombian Victims Meet With FARC in Havana

Saturday, for the first time, some victims of the decades of violence in Colombia met directly with FARC members at the Peace Talks in Havana.

The victims told the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Havana that they were listened to by the negotiators with a great deal of respect.

I was glad to see the victims of the right-wing paramilitary groups were also included. Some in Colombia (mostly FARC victims it seems) didn't think it was appropriate but:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay praised the move, calling it unprecedented and a potential model for other countries dealing with issues of justice, peace and reconciliation.

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Colombia Re-elects President Santos

Bump and Update: Colombia Re-elects President Santos

With 99% of the vote counted, President Juan Manual Santos has won the run-off election, 51% to 45%. Challenger Zuluaga has conceded. Santos even won Bogota this round.

He won Bogota, the nation’s capital, with the largest number of voters, a change from the first round, when he placed third in the first round of the elections. Santos also took the vote in the regions most affected by guerrilla groups, including the Putumayo, Nariño, Cauca and Norte de Santander states.
Thanks to Colombians for rejecting a return to Uribe and right-wing politics. Hopefully, the peace talks with FARC will continue and reach fruition. [More...]

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FARC and Colombian Government Agree to Truth Commission, Recognition of Victims

With the Colombia run-off election 8 days away, FARC and the Government of Colombia reached another milestone in the Havana peace talks.

Both sides agree the victims of the violence in Colombia must be heard. A truth commission will be set up, which FARC refers to as the "Commission of Clarification of the Origen and the Truth of the History of the Conflict." FARC has also declared a cease-fire for the next three weeks, through the election.

Here is the text of the agreement (English). Here is FARC's press release (English.)

Colombia Reports uses the headline "FARC formally admits responsibility for victims of Colombia conflict" but I think that's misleading. FARC has not admitted responsibility for the atrocities to the victims. In fact, the agreement says at this stage, the parties will not be exchanging blame. Recognizing there are victims and that the victims have a right to be heard and learn the truth is not the same as an admission of guilt or responsibility for what befell them. FARC and the Government have always claimed the other is responsible. The agreement says: [More...]

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President of Colombia: War on Drugs a Failure

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says the War on Drugs has failed and we need a new approach to drug trafficking.

In an interview on Monday with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Santos noted a softening of hard-line antidrug policies both in the U.S. and in Latin America. He said the world had to develop more "realistic and pragmatic" ways to fight drug trafficking.

"How do I explain to a peasant in Colombia that I have to put him in prison for growing marijuana when in Colorado or in Washington state, it's legal to buy the same marijuana?" he said. "The world needs a more effective, fresher, more creative focus to win this war, because until now we haven't won, and the cost has been enormous."

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Report on U.S. Use of Smart Bombs to Kill FARC Members

There is a fascinating report in today's Washington Post about the U.S. providing Colombia with smart bombs to kill FARC members. The program, which of course includes major NSA surveillance and the CIA and JSOC, began under George W. Bush and has continued under Obama. It is funded by a "multi-billion dollar black budget." ($52 billion to be exact, here's a related report on the numbers.)

The covert program in Colombia provides two essential services to the nation’s battle against the FARC and a smaller insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN): Real-time intelligence that allows Colombian forces to hunt down individual FARC leaders and, beginning in 2006, one particularly effective tool with which to kill them.

That weapon is a $30,000 GPS guidance kit that transforms a less-than-accurate 500-pound gravity bomb into a highly accurate smart bomb. Smart bombs, also called precision-guided munitions or PGMs, are capable of killing an individual in triple-canopy jungle if his exact location can be determined and geo-coordinates are programmed into the bomb’s small computer brain.

It all began as part of the War on Drugs. Similar programs exist in other countries where "violent drug cartels have caused instability." Examples: Mexico and West Africa.

The Office of Legal Counsel signed off on the targeted assassinations/killings. [More...]

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