Cyr: Colombia confirms peace can succeed
Good news can easily get lost.
That was true even during the heyday of serious professional journalism, back in the twentieth century. Today’s media are flooded with nonstop electronic nonsense and noise.
All the more reason to highlight important positive news, such as the November 23 message from the Biden administration to Congress that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, will be removed from the United States list of terrorist organizations.
At the end of January, the JEP (for Special Jurisdiction for Peace) in Colombia indicted eight FARC leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. All allegedly participated in widespread criminal hostage taking in exchange for ransoms.
The term FARC is an acronym for the Spanish name of the powerful rebel army and movement that occupied a substantial portion of Colombian territory. The organization over time embraced Communist ideology. At the same time, the FARC was rightly notorious for enormous illegal drug dealing.
The Colombia government and the FARC reached a peace agreement on September 26, 2016. Negotiators established the JEP to implement the accord.
During the half century before, brutal warfare killed approximately a quarter of a million people. Fighting ended only after complex negotiations.
Officials from the United Nations were present for the 2016 signing, along with representatives of Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Uruguay and the United States. Cuba has played a significant role long-term in brokering these negotiations.
After the remarkable success in early 1959 of revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro, Cuba became a Soviet ally fomenting and supporting communist subversion throughout the Western Hemisphere. That commitment survived the collapse of the Soviet Union, increasingly vital as a prop for Cuba’s economy, and has only faded in recent years.
President Barack Obama visited Cuba, the first sitting U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge to do so. Limited commercial and travel opportunities resulted, largely reversed by the Trump administration. Cuba remains a brutal repressive dictatorship.
Two decades ago, the FARC seemed to gain momentum. Evolving combat closely resembled the first years of the long and costly U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. More and more civilian and uniformed advisers were being sent, along with a steadily growing array of helicopters, arms and ammunition, and other matériel.
The administration of President George W. Bush significantly expanded aid which began in the Clinton administration, but also tried to minimize media attention. This effort was eerily reminiscent of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, which endeavored before 1965 to deflect Vietnam from front-page news even as U.S. involvement increased.
Then, violence in Colombia began to decline. This contrasts profoundly with the evolution of the war in Southeast Asia.
The long war in Colombia made the nation an inviting place for international criminals. In November 2011, Viktor Bout, the “Merchant of Death,” was convicted and imprisoned. A Soviet Army veteran, he became enormously rich dealing weapons and drugs on a global scale.
Colombia was a major profit center. Eventually, Drug Enforcement Administration agents posing as Colombia rebels arrested him.
Also in 2011, the U.S. Congress ratified free trade agreements with Colombia plus Panama and South Korea. The Colombia agreement indirectly is strong confirmation of established regional cooperation.
The Summit of the Americas, begun in 1994, convenes every three to four years. The Organization of American States, formed in 1948, is one of the oldest such regional cooperative organizations.
This serious news reflects disciplined policies. Americans, give thanks.
Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War” (NYU Press and Macmillan/Palgrave). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org