In a thirteen minute video message posted on Youtube, the supreme commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, alias "Alfonso Cano," promised to "double" all guerrilla activity for 2011.
The FARC leader previously appeared in footage aired by Al Jazeera in late July, stating that the FARC would be interested in "dialogue" with President Juan Manuel Santos. This was widely seen as an insincere public relations gambit.
In the video, Leon Saenz names the victims compensation law, which seeks to pay repatriations to victims of the conflict, and land reform as two essentials for "ending the conflict." This is possibly hinting at the FARC's pre-conditions for peace dialogue. These stated pre-conditions include the release of FARC political prisoners, which the government refuses to do so long as the FARC hold hostages.
Leon Saenz also criticizes aspects of the government's "neoliberal" economic agenda, including "mining concessions to big transnationals." Colombia saw a spike in mining and oil investment last year, which has brought protests and unrest to some parts of the country like Casanare and Putumayo. Given Cano's reputation as the "political" mastermind of the FARC, it is interesting that he expresses sympathy for the protesters, as though he viewed them as a possible source of popular support for the FARC.
The speech was accompanied by the FARC's boldest assault yet for the new year, when rebels attempted to seize control of a police station in San Vicente de Caguan on Saturday. At least five rebels, three soldiers and one civilian, a nine-year old girl, were killed in an attack that Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera called "demential." The police station is located in the FARC's heartland, in an area previously conceded to the guerrilla as a "safezone" during President Andres Pastrana's administration from 1998 to 2002.
According to Colombian think-tank Nuevo Arco Iris, the FARC carried out close to 1,600 actions in 2010, which includes ambushes, sniper attacks and planting improvised explosive devices. This is virtually the same number of attacks registered in 2009, representing a steady, annual increase in FARC offensives since 2008, when Leon Saenz assumed control of the guerrilla.
InSight Crime has translated key sections of the videos, which can be accessed below. A full transcript in Spanish can be found here.
Receive a warm revolutionary greeting, with my best wishes for a new and successful year. With the end of last year and welcoming 2011, I send all of you a message of solidarity to the millions of Colombians who, in these times of heavy rain, have been victims of floods and landslides as a direct result of the harsh, excessive and irrational capitalist exploitation of our natural resources, the uncontrolled increase in large pasture areas for livestock that accelerates soil erosion of our homeland, and therefore also the improvidence, the lies and the corruption that characterizes public administration in Colombia.
Greetings to the people that bear upon their shoulders the weight of the secular crisis of our society, generated by the neoliberal dependency on Washington, by the terror of the state, by the neoliberal strategies of the regime, by the landowners and the corruption that poisons political costume, paralyzes progress and intensifies cracks in society. Of the multiplicity of these disorders that Colombia must face in 2011, of special attention are two laws currently being handled by Congress, the first related to the repatriation of the victims of violence that the country has suffered for over 62 years, and the second regarding property and usufruct.
These are interdependent topics, two sides to the same coin, vertebrae in Colombia's recent history, difficult to treat but essential for building a future of reconciliation and democracy. These two issues need - and for that we are fighting - certain bases and serious treatment, if we are to truly contribute to a solution to the conflict.
In the first, reparation for victims of violence, the starting point should be exhaustive recognition by the traditional parties and the state of its responsibility in initiating this period of confrontation in1948, fueled later by the Cold War, later including the doctrine of national security as the conceptualization of the Colombian state. An acknowledgment that would rapidly unleash a process of reconciliation based on truth.
In the second, agrarian reform, it is imperative to return the land taken over the years to the rightful owners, settlers and farmers, and also restore to the indigenous communities what is rightfully theirs, as well as the black communities. (...)
Along with these two matters, other issues should be prioritized in the national debate in 2011, such as the unmasking of the criminal and mafioso regime of Alvaro Uribe, the terrorism of the state, the mining concessions to large transnationals, global warming, the free trade pact, the declining quality of life for Colombian workers under the neoliberal curse (...)
We will not stop for one second looking for a political solution for the conflict, because of principles, because of certainties that motivate us, because we are revolutionaries, because we love peace (...)
In 2011 we will redouble all activity in every sense. With the strength of our convictions, the care that comes from experience and the enormous encouragement of all fallen comrades, Manuel, Jacobo, Raul, Ivan and Jorge Briceño, that hurricane of truth and revolutionary commitment, that Titan because of his thoughts and actions as a true Bolivarian fighter.
To all, greetings from the FARC-EP in hope of advancing a year that sees a political solution to the conflict, social justice, national sovereignty and full democratic participation of the people in the forging of their destiny. Successes in 2011, a firm handshake and to victory."