HomeNewsAnalysisColombia Peace Process Suspended: Action of Rogue FARC Unit?
ANALYSIS

Colombia Peace Process Suspended: Action of Rogue FARC Unit?

COLOMBIA / 17 NOV 2014 BY JEREMY MCDERMOTT EN

Colombia's president has suspended a two-year peace process with the FARC guerrillas after the kidnapping of an army general, amid questions of whether this action was sanctioned by the rebel leadership or was the work of a rogue unit seeking to undermine the peace process.

President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended peace talks in Havana, Cuba between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) following the abduction of General Ruben Alzate, the commander of the Titan Joint Task Force in the province of Choco, near the border with Panama. The president said that the general had been snatched, along with two others, by members of the FARC's 34th Front on November 16, after violating internal security protocols.

The FARC renounced kidnapping in February 2012, as a government precondition for sitting down to peace talks. Because of this, rebel critics, like the head of the Colombian Army, General Jaime Lasprilla, have stated that the FARC have broken their promises with the latest abduction. However, what the FARC promised to do was to stop their policy of kidnapping for ransom; soldiers taken on the battlefield are seen by the rebels as prisoners of war.

The kidnapping of the general comes after a similar action in northeast Colombia a week earlier, in which the FARC snatched two soldiers in Arauca, by the Venezuelan border. In a communique by the Jorge Briceño Bloc -- the FARC division which is holding the soldiers -- the rebels stated that the two men were "prisoners," adding that "unlike the state and the government, the FARC-EP shows its willingness to discuss liberation." 

InSight Crime Analysis

The question is whether the 34th Front was acting without the sanction of the FARC's seven-man ruling body, the Secretariat, or whether this kidnapping was part of an approved policy.

It is possible that the FARC high command has ordered guerrilla units to capture soldiers, in the hope of forcing concessions -- perhaps a bilateral ceasefire -- at the negotiating table. The 34th Front would have known that kidnapping a general would cause an uproar, and if the action was unsanctioned, it might have been aimed at undermining the ongoing talks in Havana. InSight Crime investigations last year identified the 34th Front as one of the rebel units vulnerable to criminalizing, should a peace agreement be reached. The 34th Front is believed to be involved in drug trafficking and have ties with the country's most powerful criminal syndicate, the Urabeños. This FARC unit is also one of the principal targets of the Titan Joint Task Force that General Alzate leads, and it has been feeling the pressure of constant military actions. The fact that the 34th Front opted for capturing, not killing, General Alzate suggests the action had a political purpose.

SEE ALSO: FARC News and Profile

Meanwhile, the fact that President Santos has suspended the peace process over the kidnapping shows the power of the Colombian military. A highly placed source in the military told InSight Crime that there is widespread disaffection with the peace process within army ranks, and that threats to the peace process come not only from dissident elements in the FARC, but from within the military. There have been several scandals that have revealed the military's suspicions regarding the peace talks, with military intelligence units eavesdropping on the communications of government negotiators.

Another sign of the power of the military, and the delicate position of the president, can be seen over the issue of a ceasefire. Since the beginning of the peace talks in November 2012, the FARC have been asking for a bilateral ceasefire, and have even called several unilateral ceasefires in the hope of prompting the government to respond in kind. However the military source told InSight Crime that army generals have agreed, reluctantly, to support the peace process, so long as they are allowed to keep hammering the FARC on the battlefield. The military believe that a ceasefire would allow the guerrilla leaders to get back on the ground, reorganize fronts and finances and rebuild their command and control, which has suffered severe blows since 2002. In the past, the FARC have used peace processes and ceasefire to build up their military strength.

SEE ALSO: FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

President Santos has been facing growing criticism of the peace talks, thanks in no small part to the arrival on the political scene of the Democratic Center (Centro Democratico), the party of former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, which won 19 seats in the Senate and 12 seats in the House of Representatives this year. Uribe has become the principal opponent of peace talks in Havana, and he commands an enormous amount of respect from within the military establishment.

The military are well aware that should a peace agreement be signed, the generals are likely to see large budget cuts, and a significant loss of influence. They are also aware that their rivals in the police are likely to receive a boost in terms of resources and influence -- the natural result of any post-conflict scenario.

The reaction to the kidnapping of General Alzate is perhaps as much about the military as it is about the FARC. While it remains to be seen whether the actions of the 34th Front have been sanctioned by the guerrilla high command, it is clear that elements of the Colombian military also present threats to the reaching of a peace agreement that could put an end to 50 years of civil conflict.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2010

Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias Gabino, the top leader of the National Liberation Army reappeared to call for a Constitutional Assembly…

COLOMBIA / 16 APR 2020

The seizures of several illegal shipments of medicine in Colombia's northern department of La Guajira has shown that one of…

AUC / 29 MAR 2020

After the demobilization of the AUC in 2006, the paramilitary high command was behind bars. All except alias “Sebastían Colmenares”…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…