The Colombian government and Marxist guerrillas have negotiated a deal on ensuring rebel political participation, a key advance, moving the talks closer to the complex issue of the drug trade.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government reached an agreement on political participation -- the second of six items on the agenda at peace talks taking place in Havana, reported El Tiempo.
According to the joint statement released on November 6, the Colombian government and the FARC have reached a consensus on issues such as rights and guarantees for the exercise of political opposition and access to the media, democratic mechanisms of citizen participation, and effective promotion of greater political participation.
Another of the items set to be discussed is the "solution to the problem of illicit drugs," which is expected to draw a major discussion of alternative policies to combat drug trafficking in the country.
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After more than a year of talks between the FARC and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, the reaching of an agreement on political participation is an important step towards a peace deal. Talks on the subject had previously stalled, amid claims the process was falling apart.
The issue of political participation is a sensitive one for the FARC, given precedent of the Patriotic Union (UP) -- a political movement established as an electoral vehicle for the FARC and its allies during peace talks in the 1980s. It was subsequently decimated by paramilitary death squads. Up to 3,000 members of the UP were assassinated, driving the guerrillas back to armed struggle.
The issue of drugs promises to be equally problematic. The FARC control anything up to 70 percent of the country's coca crops, the raw material for cocaine. Many FARC fronts earn millions of dollars from the drug trade, often partnering up with paramilitary successor groups -- known as BACRIM (from the Spanish abbreviation for "criminal bands"). Any agreement with the government on this subject could have massive implications for the drug trade in Colombia.
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Furthermore, as InSight Crime has previously noted, dissident factions of the FARC may well criminalize and continue their illegal activities without the same ideological justifications, as happened to the AUC paramilitary organization following its official demobilization in 2006, when it gave birth to the BACRIM. It is perhaps inevitable that a new generation of criminal groups, the FARCRIM, may be born should a peace deal be signed.