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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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Colombia: Early Returns Signal Run-Off Election

With 96 percent of polling stations in Colombia reporting, President Juan Manuel Santos has 25.5 percent of the vote to right-wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga's 29.2%. That means a run-off election will be held next month since neither candidate got 50%.

Zuluaga is a protege of former President Aliviro Uribe. He has opposed the FARC peace talks, and before slightly softening his position in recent days, said he would shut them down.

Santos has been a big promoter of the peace talks. Like Zuluaga, at one time he worked in Uribe's cabinet. Santos and Uribe have since had a falling out, thus, Uribe's support of Zuluaga. [More....]

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FARC and Colombia Reach Accord on Drugs

The peace talks between FARC and Colombia reached a new milestone this week, with a partial agreement on drug trafficking.

Under the agreement, FARC pledges to end its involvement in the drug trade and Colombia promises to develop a strategy to combat corruption associated with drug trafficking and to stop eradicating farmer's coca plants and instead focus on alternative crop programs (except where communities refuse to participate in alternative programs or violate the agreement.[More...]

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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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