Reclaiming Democracy, The First Step Toward Peace Part 3

Quenby Wilcox Having It All


In my last blog, Reclaiming Democracy: The First Step Toward Peace - Part 2, Ingrid Betancourt exposes the typical shenanigans ones sees all too often when working with government agencies and contractors. Unfortunately, since governments have no effective over-sight on any of their agencies, chaos, shenanigans and conflict of interests are the name of the game amongst mid-level and upper-level management. Some civil servants are a little less overt and flagrant in the types of illegal activity they will turn a blind eye to, but the level of complicity to cover-up after cover-up is of epidemic proportions. My own battles with the US Department of State and US Congress regarding the rights of American women and children living abroad for the past decade is smoking gun proof as to the elevated negligence of American government officials.

Ingrid Betancourt again in Until Death Do Us Part: My Struggle to Reclaim Colombia, provides an explanation of how the Failed War on Drugs and Failed War on Terror is feeds corruption at the highest levels of government, which in turn feed the oppression of the Colombian people,

... By now the fragility of the "Pastrana method" is already apparent. A former television journalist himself, the president always seems to attach more importance to "media coups" than to serious reflection on the issues.

We immediately saw this when, in the euphoria following his election, he made a historic "gesture." In the name of peace, he granted FARC, nearly seventeen thousand square miles of national territory. And what commitments did he get from the guerrillas in exchange for that? None whatsoever. This abandonment of sovereignty was made in the vaguest possible way, at the risk of sending the country the message that they state was ready to weaken itself in order to get into the good graces of the warlords.

The leaders of the various guerrilla groups remain coolheaded. At least this is my impression after having talked at length with them. They're perfectly aware that Colombian leaders use negotiations for electoral purposes, and that their desire for peace is not based on any long-term vision. So the guerrillas are pretending to want peace, and they have everything to gain by doing so. At the same time, they're preparing for war or waging it. For example, during the spring of 2000, FARC forces tried to smuggle ten thousand weapons into the zone granted to the guerrillas by Pastrana for peace talks. This scandal, in which the existence of a Peruvian pipeline came to light, ultimately brought down President Alberto Fujimori of Peru.

It's as if the political leaders and the guerrillas are helping each other along in order to maintain a state of war that suits them but is destroying our country The guerrilla leaders don't want to be told that the battle they're waging in the name of the people is, paradoxically, strengthening the political class that is the source of the people's misery and sustaining the system of corruption under which it flourishes. Nevertheless, this is what I have told them. They know what I think, and this allows me to maintain distant but frank relationships with them, without ambiguity.

For the time being, negotiations have no chance of success. They've been warped from the outset. Their goal isn't to arrive at a conclusion, but to win time for the parties involved. Each of the adversaries is convinced it will eventually ensure its ultimate victory by military means. Everyone lies. And everyone pretends to believe the lies of the other.

In fact, the common people are the only ones who really want a negotiated peace. It's common people who are burying their own every day, with thirty thousand deaths a year. To lower this number, it's not enough to be seated at a negotiation table.

Colombia is in a state of war. It is an internal, complicated, and extremely violent war that has claimed countless Colombians and destroyed our environment and economy. The war has also had a serious impact on other countries. Its most tangible effects is the drug traffic that has wrought havoc on the streets of America. I want to see Colombia free of war, with its democracy reclaimed, its peace assured.

This is why we first need to decide what kind of peace we are going to seek. Do we want a fake peace imposed by the use of terror? This is what the guerrillas are fighting for. Do we want a peace agreement negotiated by a corrupt regime that uses a false promise of peace as a tool to maintain the status quo that allows the select few to share the privileges? This is what our establishment is trying to preserve.

None of these possibilities will free us from the drug traffic emporium and the violence that accompanies it.

The peace that we, the Colombian people, want is a different one altogether. It is a peace rooted in the rules of democracy. It can't be a peace negotiated by a corrupt, feeble, and vacillating government.

People are tempted to think that a certain degree of corruption can be tolerated as a price for minimal political stability in the region. This was the view taken for decades, because corrupted governments and dictatorship were battling communism.

Today, however, the problem is more complex and more vital. Today, we are all citizens of the world. We are compelled to play by the same rules, and we all share the consequences of political turmoil, even if it seems to be a contained within a specific place. What happens abroad has immediate consequences on our daily lives. This is what globalization is all about. If we want to make it work, if we want to prosper, we need democracy.

Today, we cannot expect to fight drug trafficking while we turn a blind eye to the corrupted ways of our government. These are, after all, one and the same, and they work together to make sure that things don't change.

Today, we cannot expect to enforce civil and human rights laws while we ignore the evidence of electoral fraud. This is precisely the kind of corruption that nurtures violence.

Our war in Colombia is the best example of this situation. In this war the Colombian government has permitted the creation of paramilitary forces. Financed by powerful landlords and drug traffickers, and too frequently trained with the help of high-ranking army officials, these illegal troops are used to confront the guerrillas, and they have an agenda of their own. These illegal troops are doing what the law forbids our army to do: they carry out massacres, tortures, and persecutions. Our government condones their victories because they hold back any form of subversion that challenges its authority—even though this tolerance ends up strengthening the very mafia the government claims to be fighting.

As long as the AUC (United Colombian Self-Defense) paramilitary forces are a clandestine instrument of the establishment, the Colombian government will lack the legitimacy required to discuss peace with anyone. In the end, the Colombian government accepts illegal money to win a war that protects not the lives of civilians, but the properties of those financing the war.

This is why peace cannot be sought without addressing openly the close ties between drug traffickers, paramilitaries, and guerrillas. Any peace process has to begin with a strong commitment from all parties to fight corruption in its most sophisticated manifestation—drug trafficking.

It is only when we target drug trafficking that we will truly weaken the financial supply channeled to corrupted politicians and terrorists and thereby arrest the perpetuation of violence that has crippled Colombia.

Three conditions are necessary to bring peace to our people:

1. The denarcotization of Colombia—We need to weaken the drug traffic partnership with terrorism by making a commitment to fighting it the sine qua non for any peace talks.

2. The enforcement of human rights laws—We need to reestablish government authority by severing the government's clandestine ties with the paramilitares.

3. Support from the international community—We need partners to confront the corrupt and very strong Colombian political force in power.

There is no doubt that we need international support to accomplish these goals. The Colombian people cannot be left to confront such powerful organizations on their own. Their tentacles reach far beyond the Colombian people's control.

We will win this war if we can receive support from all over the world—and especially from the American people, not only because our two nations are the victims of this illegal drug traffic and the terrorism it finances, but because we need help from truly democratic countries in rescuing our own democracy.

There is a clear link between having a strong, legitimate democracy in Colombia and stopping the flood of drugs onto American streets. The American people need to know that.

If the drug lords are financing elections and the electoral fraud, they gain control over the government, parliament, and judiciary. But if we have clean elections, we will have a political turnaround. Without their accomplices in the government, the drug lords are like fish out of water. It will be easier for us to beat them, and at the same time out of water. It will easier for us to beat them, and at the same time out of water. It will be easier for us to beat them, and at the same time it will shut the valve that fuels violence and war.

I believe strongly that only true democracy will give us, the people of Colombia, the means of defeating the forces behind the war that is being waged against us internally.

A strong legitimate democracy will induce the emergence of a new Colombia. A war against the economic and political power of drugs will cut off the paramilitaries and the guerrillas from their financial source. At the same time, democratically elected government guarantees a political structure that will address and ensure people's desire for social justice. A combination of these factors can pave the way to peace negotiations and a truce with the guerrillas and the paramilitaries.

There is no quick fix, but I am convinced that reclaiming our democracy is the very first step toward peace, and the sole condition for a true alliance against drugs and against terrorism between the people of all nations....

Until Death Do Us Part: My Struggle to Reclaim Colombia was published in 2002, and since then Ingrid was kidnapped and liberated, but little has fundamentally changed. While the security situation in Colombia has vastly improved, it has improved at the expense of the Mexican people, who are now crossing the border in droves into the USA in attempts to flee the violence and corruption that has installed itself there.