In a radio interview, President Juan Manuel Santos said that Colombia should consider expanding its definition of political crimes to include drug trafficking, sparking debate and raising questions about whether the political environment exists to push such a reform through.
ln comments to RCN Radio on December 2, the president said that as part of the government's ongoing peace talks with guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia should discuss making the legal definition of political crimes include activities like drug trafficking.
Such a move would be necessary in order to "pardon" thousands of FARC combatants, he said. "We have to be more flexible," he added.
As pointed out by Semana magazine, if the Colombian government is to eventually sign a peace deal with the FARC, they may first have to assure demobilized guerrillas who have participated directly or indirectly in drug trafficking that they will not be prosecuted for the crime.
After Santos' comments, Colombia's Attorney General said that within the context of Colombia's peace negotiations, drug trafficking could indeed be considered related to political crime, as "it is undisputable that in the Colombian armed conflict, drug trafficking has been used as a tool related to the guerrillas' armed struggle."
The government temporarily suspended peace talks with the FARC following the kidnapping of a military general, but negotiations are set to resume December 10 in Cuba.
InSight Crime Analysis
One issue that has loomed over Colombia's peace talks since the beginning is the fact that much of the FARC's top leadership is wanted by the United States for drug trafficking. It seems that the negotiations have finally reached the delicate stage in which Santos must broach the subject with both Congress and the Colombian public: in order to come to an agreement to end Colombia's 50-year-old conflict, it may be necessary to grant some degree of amnesty to the FARC. And one type of amnesty that the FARC's leadership certainly want is assurance that they will not be extradited to the US to face drug trafficking charges.
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By raising this question, Santos has already provoked serious debate in Colombia, with various members of Congress weighing in, as well as many commentators on Twitter and other social media networks.
Should Colombia push such a reform through, other crimes committed by the guerrillas -- including those that may be considered war crimes, or crimes against humanity -- will still be prosecuted in Colombia, under the terms of legislation passed in 2012. This may be hard to swallow for those who want to see FARC members put in jail for drug trafficking, but it may be a necessary sacrifice so that Colombia may finally see peace.