As the clock ticks down to my trip to Colombia, I'm going to be posting more news, particularly about the internal conflicts going on there. For those that don't know, Colombia has been engaged in a civil war since the Sixties against two insurgencies, the FARC and ELN. Tbe FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) started in 1964, intent on overthrowing the government and installing a Marxist regime. Their operations have been sustained largely by a guerrilla insurgency financed by cocaine. The ELN (Army of National Liberation) began a year later under the direction of intellectuals seeking to emulate the Cuban Revolution.
While both insurgencies are against the Colombian government, they have experienced a fair amount of infighting amongst each other over territory, methods and ideological differences. This came to an end today when the FARC and ELN announced they would be putting aside their differences to join forces against the Uribe Administration.
This morning, the 2 rebel groups announced the following decree through a document published via the "New Colombia News Agency":
1. Stop the confrontation between the two forces with the publication of this document.
2. Do not allow any collaboration with the enemy of the people, or make public accusations.
3. Respect for non-combatant population, their property and interests and their social organizations.
4. Make use of thoughtful and respectful language between the two revolutionary organizations.
This new alliance is no doubt, a result of conservative President Alvaro Uribe's numerous offensives after becoming president in 2002. Both groups (which in aggregate number at less than 13,000 strong) have suffered setbacks and defeats over the past nine years, being pushed out of major Colombian cities and into the most remote areas of jungle and border regions. What is often left out of international press are the actions of the Colombian right-wing paramilitaries (such as the AUC), who have employed some of the same hostage taking, drug dealing and terrorist tactics in fighting against the left-wing FARC and ELN.
Some things I will be following closely in the months to come: 1. The public diplomacy (or lack thereof) used by both the insurgencies and the Uribe Administration. 2. The role of Venezuela and its' allies, who have been implemented in sustaining the FARC, both monetarily and rhetorically. 3. The role of the U.S. in light of it's new contract allowing the use of seven Colombian military bases to assist the Uribe Adminisration in fighting the drug trade and insurgencies. 4. The ideological divide within the Colombian populous, who have experienced years of brutality, thousands of disappearances and millions of people displaced by the armed conflicts.
While the danger of this internal conflict has been largely pushed into remote areas of the countryside you better believe I'll be notifying the U.S. Embassy of my trip and just to be safe, I'll be refraining from speaking English while in Colombia. Perhaps these past few months of living like an Argentine will allow me to be perceived as such when I'm in Colombia, ya veremos!