Peace Signs in Colombia

Can Bogotá and the FARC Finally Overcome Their Differences?

The silhouette of a man is seen through the Colombian national flag during a protest against the FARC in 2011. Jaime Saldarriaga / Courtesy Reuters

For a little under a year, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been holding peace talks in Havana -- the first since the round conducted by the Pastrana administration from 1998 to 2002. Those were plagued by delays, accusations from the FARC that the Colombian government was planning to assassinate its top leaders, accusations from the Colombian government that the FARC was planning to kidnap officials, and ongoing violence. The fact that, this time around, the government and the FARC have succeeded in commencing negotiations and maintaining momentum is promising.

The negotiators have already resolved the first of five discussion points: land reform. Although the specifics have not been made public, both sides seem to have agreed that the government should facilitate the redistribution of land from those who have illegally seized it, including the FARC, to campesinos (rural farmers) for eco-friendly agricultural development. Now the negotiations have moved on to the second discussion point -- the morphing of the FARC from a terrorist organization into a legitimate political party. Two Colombian government negotiators, a prominent opposition member of the Venezuelan National Assembly, a Cuban lecturer and former diplomat, and two demobilized fighters offer their takes on the peace process and on how an agreement might affect their respective countries. Their hopefulness about the process varies, but all warn of regional instability should talks fail.


In 1953, when Humberto de la Calle was seven years old, he took a train with his older brother from their home state of Caldas to Colombia’s northern coast for an unchaperoned vacation. The young de la Calle did not mind the hours-long ride; he was too excited to embark on this grand adventure. His brother, too, was gleeful. But upon arriving at the coast, his demeanor suddenly changed. “Humberto,” his brother ordered, “put your money in your sock. Here, there are men who will try to rob us and then kill us.”

Sitting in the spacious conference room

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