Working Paper

					June 2002

            Colombia: Negotiate, But What?                                                                        INTER-AMERICAN

                                              By Joaquín Villalobos

                                                                                                                 Working Paper
 Method or Content?                                           this through a political settlement with the
After three years of negotiations between the                 armed actors. After three years, this con-
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia                        cept is implicit, but not explicit, in the
(FARC) and Colombia’s current govern-                         negotiations. What has been established is
ment, and the January 2002 crisis surround-                   that the war must end through negotiation.
ing the survival of the peace process, it is                  This decision, however, has put procedure
quite clear that the core dilemma of this                     ahead of content. The government has tak-
process has been the content of the negotia-                  en the initiative, but the FARC has been
tions itself .1 In fact, the January crisis                   able to skirt issues essential to the conclusion
resulted in an agenda that covered such                       of the process, such as its own demobiliza-
general topics as the paramilitaries, kidnap-                 tion. Even if the challenge of reassigning
pings, unemployment, and a truce. It is as if                 part or all of the guerrillas to the army or
the negotiations were geared more toward                      police forces were settled, the disarming of
resolving the effects of the war than the war                 the insurgents and the reunification of
itself. The paramilitaries can be considered                  Colombian society are the real basis of the
a consequence of guerrilla expansion, kid-                    whole process. This reality makes it easy
nappings serve to finance both groups, the                    for the FARC to manipulate the negotia-
truce concept smacks of wanting to begin                      tions tactically.
from the endpoint, and the unemployment
issue is more of a union demand than a war-                   In short, in spite of the January crisis, the
related negotiating point.                                    government has been unable to come up
                                                              with an offer, the guerrillas have made no
The ultimate goal of the negotiations is to                   specific demands, the war has expanded,
reunify Colombian society, disarm the                         and the national and international political
insurgent groups, and restore the govern-                     scenes have become even more complex.
ment’s monopoly over the use of force—all                     Dozens of meetings have become mired in
                                                              longer procedures than those present in
   During the events referred to as the January crisis, the   many other, more complex, conflicts. In
peace process was suspended after the FARC demand-            fact, real and direct negotiations have been
ed guarantees for the demilitarized zone. Talks only
resumed after the government threatened to retake the
                                                              avoided, replaced with such extensive con-
demilitarized zone and a last-minute international            sultation mechanisms that they contribute
diplomatic effort pressured the FARC to concede.              to the artificial contin- (continued on page 3)

This is the second in a series of working papers on Colombia that the Inter-American Dialogue plans
to publish over the coming months to deepen understanding and enrich the debate about such an
important policy question.
                                     he Inter-American Dialogue is pleased to launch a special working paper series on

        Foreword           T         Colombia. We plan to devote sustained and high-quality attention to what is
                                     perhaps the hemisphere’s most urgent challenge, looking especially at ways of
                           helping the country move toward greater peace and security. The aim is to stimulate a wider
                           public debate on the complex issues facing key decision makers, actors, and analysts with
                           regard to the Colombian conflict. We wish to offer both diagnosis and interpretations of the
                           current situation and key dynamics, as well as ideas for policy prescriptions that can usefully
                           contribute to resolving the country’s multiple and deep-seated problems.

                           These papers reflect the Inter-American Dialogue’s continuing concern with the Colombia
                           question, which remains a high priority for the institution. Specifically, these papers come out
                           of an initiative undertaken in June 2001 known as the Colombia Working Group, which
                           included a select and diverse group of analysts and former policy officials from Colombia,
                           other Latin American countries, Europe, Canada, and the United States. The working group
                           serves as a core of advisors, a "brain trust" for the Dialogue on the Colombia issue. The
                           group’s goal is not necessarily to reach agreement and produce consensus documents. Rather,
                           it is to encourage as much imagination as possible and generate ideas and proposals that can
                           help shape thought and action on Colombia in constructive ways.

                           This paper, written in early February 2002 by Joaquín Villalobos—former Salvadoran
                           guerrilla leader currently at Oxford University—sets out some fresh and original ideas for
                           moving toward a peaceful settlement of Colombia’s conflict. It seeks to reflect on and assess
                           the experience with peace talks during the Pastrana administration, and yield relevant lessons,
                           with an eye toward offering some guidance for the next government in Bogotá. Villalobos’s
                           analysis and formula for a successful peace strategy in Colombia do not necessarily reflect the
                           opinions of the Colombia Working Group or the Inter-American Dialogue.

                           Since the Colombian situation is highly dynamic, with events unfolding with unusual
                           velocity, it is nearly inevitable that some of what appears in these papers will seem out of
                           date, overtaken by new developments. Still, we hope that a steady production of thoughtful
                           interpretations and ideas on the Colombia question will lead to better insights on the
                           problems and more realistic and effective policy recipes.

                           We are grateful to the United States Institute of Peace for its support of the February
                           meeting and the production of this report. We are also pleased to acknowledge the assistance
                           provided for our broader work on Colombia by the Swedish International Development
                           Agency and the Ford Foundation.

                                                                                                             Michael Shifter
                                                                                                    Vice President for Policy

2   Colombia: Negotiate, But What?
(continued from page 1)                         tions that have also failed to produce
uation of the process, even if they help to     concrete results. In short, the actors are
politicize a segment of the FARC. Ambigu-       speaking different languages, and both the
ity and a lack of well-defined content have     war and the negotiations appear to be
transformed the cease-fire into little more     marching aimlessly.
than a humanitarian issue. The aforemen-
tioned has created the image of a slow,         Goodwill or Correlation of Forces?
debilitating, and to date unproductive peace    It would seem that the government wants
process. The January events led to advances     to avoid a war by using negotiations as
of great importance and opened a window         strategy, and the FARC wants to win the
of opportunity, but the absence of content      war by using negotiations as tactic. The cor-
can close it.                                   relation of forces, the natural basis of any
                                                negotiation, has been substituted by the
Negotiation will always be the best option      goodwill of the parties. This error has hid-
to end a conflict, and the Pastrana govern-     den fundamental aspects and blocked the
ment’s decision to make peace a top politi-
cal priority was absolutely correct. In
Colombia’s case, however, many point to a
lack of results and complain that the nego-
                                                ability to look at concrete issues, further
                                                reinforcing an agenda more focused on pro-
                                                cedure than content. It is very difficult to
                                                believe that goodwill can be useful in a con-
                                                                                                        “         …the

                                                                                                     government wants to

                                                                                                     avoid a war by using
tiations have only worsened the war. The        flict undermined by the social decomposi-
                                                                                                   negotiations as strategy,
violent events that took place after the Jan-   tion brought about by the drug trade,
uary agreement reinforce this viewpoint. If     entrenched political violence, and a history        and the FARC wants to
this worsening of the violence could be         of failed negotiations. The goodwill of the          win the war by using
attributed to an attempt to change the cor-     players is important, but is ultimately deter-
relation of forces and win concrete points at   mined by the correlation of forces and the             negotiations as
the negotiating table, the problem would        military and political scenarios that arise

not be so serious, since it would at least be   from this correlation. These realities bring
within the logic of ending the conflict.        the players to the table in search of a nego-
                                                tiated solution. To stand on a different
The expansion of the FARC’s military            principle risks turning the peace process
activity, however, coupled with a negotiat-     into a simple stage for rhetorical confronta-
ing content as general as unemployment          tion. The correlation of forces, the nature
and the paramilitaries, do not lead us to       of the conflict, and the precision of the
think that force may be turned into results.    negotiating content are directly related to
The guerrillas extend their fronts and          the probability of successful negotiation.
operations without any realistic agenda or      Nevertheless, the positive effects of the
proposals capable of transforming their mil-    January 2002 events and the peace process
itary advances into political conquests. On     itself have opened up an opportunity.
the other hand, the government has given
top priority to a strategy based on politics
and negotiation, generating high expecta-

                                                                                           INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE
                                                                                          Villalobos   Working Paper     3
                               Achievements up to the January Crisis             become a credible player in the negotiations
                               The government took the initiative in Janu-       was to distance itself from the paramilitary
                               ary. The need to improve the Conservative         forces.
                               party’s electoral position forced it to recon-
                               sider its negotiating strategy. The search for    The paramilitaries thus have been forced to
                               short-term concrete results led to the first      look for their own political legitimacy.
                               instance in which the government com-             There is little doubt of their origins as
                               bined the use of force (at least the threat of    enactors of a dirty war, eventually develop-
                               it) and negotiation. There is, for the time       ing into an entity and acquiring a life of its
                               being, less of a public stage for rhetoric.       own. If no one were to take responsibility
                                                                                 for the actions of the paramilitaries, they
                               The FARC has become dependent on the              would remain an ambiguity of the conflict
                               demilitarized zone. The area is part of the       that would be very difficult to resolve. Their
                               guerrillas’ political legitimacy, and it is now   out-in-the-open fight for legitimacy rounds
                               clear that they are expected to make some         out the elements of the process, making

 “        …it is either a

 residual conflict of the

Cold War dominated by
                               type of concession in order to preserve it.
                               One of the negotiation’s major problems
                               was the FARC’s relative autonomy from
                               external and internal forces. The guerrilla
                                                                                 viable the future control of this other
                                                                                 expression of violence.

                                                                                 These aspects of the Colombian conflict are
                               group’s conversion into a political player is     still in an early stage of development, but
political ideology, or it is                                                     they have strategic value in future scenarios
                               directly linked to the existence of the zone.
   the first great war         At the same time, this territory has become       and in the outcome of the process. The com-
                               a strategic military re-supply area that is       bination of all these factors in the time frame
against drug trafficking
                               equally difficult to give up. This issue, as      of the elections and of the demilitarized zone
   as a socio-political        well as all the other crucial aspects of the      has created an opportunity for the negotiat-
                               process, is tied to the continued existence       ing process. The government has taken the

                               of the zone.                                      initiative, forcing the FARC to make con-
                                                                                 cessions. The problem remains the absence
                               The internationalization of the peace             of practical and concrete content. If this
                               process was consolidated. Both the                does not appear on the table directly or
                               government and the FARC have accepted             indirectly, the opportunity to achieve
                               third party participation, either as facilita-    progress in the short term could be lost.
                               tors or for a future verification role. The
                               participation of the United Nations and           The Nature of the Conflict: A State That
                               the países amigos (friends of the process)        Does Not Control Its Territory
                               was the instrument needed to bring about          The possible content of the negotiation
                               real peace.                                       depends on the nature of the conflict; yet,
                                                                                 this does not always correspond with what
                               The process has forced the separation of          the parties say or propose. In the Colom-
                               the paramilitary forces and the government.       bian case, the nature of the conflict contin-
                               The only way that the government could            ues to be a subject of diverse interpretation

   4   Colombia: Negotiate, But What?
on which there is little consensus. On one          population of the country, the number of
extreme, there are those who explain the            armed men in the guerrilla movements and
conflict as rooted in poverty; on the other,        their territorial dislocation, the popular sup-
those who consider it to be a drug issue. In        port they receive, the country’s proportion
essence, the conflict is situated between two       of urban to rural populations, and—finally
alternatives: it is either a residual conflict of   —the government’s inability to exercise
the Cold War dominated by political ideol-          authority over its own territory through
ogy, or it is the first great war against drug      police and military forces. A correlation of
trafficking as a socio-political phenomenon.        these variables reveals that the Colombian
There is enough evidence to believe that            conflict has more to do with the govern-
Colombia is a case of the former in transi-         ment’s lack of control over a large part of its
tion to the latter. The age of the guerrilla        territory than with abuses of state power.
movement places the roots of the conflict
on the same ideological stage as many oth-          The Colombian political system is, in spite
ers in Latin America, but its expansion             of its defects, a democracy with consider-
along the lines of the drug trade defines it        ably more political legitimacy than the gov-

as a new type of conflict.                          ernments of Batista in 1959, Somoza in
                                                                                                                 …the Colombian
                                                    1979, or the Salvadoran military in 1980.
The persistence and proliferation of armed          This legitimacy is directly related to the            conflict has more to do
rural groups in Colombia throughout sever-          insurgency’s possibility of prospering, to the
                                                                                                          with the government’s
al decades—in spite of the existence of cen-        point that a small guerrilla group is able to
tury-old political parties and a stronger           cause significant damage and even take                lack of control over a
democracy than that in many other Latin             control. In authoritarian regimes, the gov-
                                                                                                         large part of its territory
American countries—lends little support to          ernment is illegitimate but strong. In
the idea that the guerrillas can be explained       Colombia, the government is legitimate but             than with abuses of
as a reaction to a lack of political freedom.       weak, evidenced largely by its inability to

                                                                                                           state power.
The tendency to equate political violence           project coercive force over much of its terri-
with poverty can be discarded after a quick         tory. This weakness fosters the emergence
comparison to other countries. Some coun-           of armed groups, be they guerrillas fighters,
tries poorer than Colombia did not experi-          paramilitary groups, or drug dealers, who
ence war, and some with better conditions           then substitute the government’s authority
were gripped by insurgency. In fact, the            with their own. The groups then assume
norm was that guerrilla forces sprouted             postures of self-defense, security, or outright
and grew during authoritarian periods as            conflict for territorial control related to var-
in the cases of Central America, Cuba,              ious productive resources.
and Argentina. Colombia thus appears to
be atypical.                                        Some analysts estimate that the FARC
                                                    could have up to 20,000 men in seventy-
To gain a proper perspective on the nature          two fronts and the National Liberation
of the conflict in Colombia, it is helpful to       Army (ELN) 5,000 in thirty-two fronts.
understand the territorial extension and            Some surveys indicate that the guerrillas

                                                                                                 INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE
                                                                                                Villalobos   Working Paper     5
                               have the support of about 2 percent of the       the social problems of poverty, which are in
                               population in a territory of 1,141,000           any case similar to or more moderate than
                               square kilometers, with 37 million inhabi-       those of other Latin American countries.
                               tants, of whom 24 percent live in rural areas
                               and 76 percent in urban. Comparing these         The growth, territorial control, and
                               data with those for El Salvador with 10,000      effectiveness of the guerrillas appear to be
                               guerrilla fighters and Cuba and Nicaragua        related to the expanding social and eco-
                               with 3,000, the Colombian war and guerril-       nomic power of the drug trade or to the
                               la force in relation to the territory and its    existence of other resources against a weak
                               inhabitants seem extremely weak. This            state that cannot control its territory. A
                               impression holds true when compared with         2 percent rate of popular support appears
                               Guatemala in the 1980s, or Argentina and         to be minimal from a political perspective,
                               Uruguay in the 1970s. In El Salvador, there      but—given that it may be understood as a
                               was a guerrilla fighter for every two square     sign of approval of local social violence—it
                               kilometers and every fifty inhabitants; in       is actually very high. Considering that 24

  “          Colombia’s

   wealth of natural

resources, illegal crops,
                               Colombia, there is a guerrilla fighter for
                               every fifty-seven square kilometers and
                               every 1,850 inhabitants.
                                                                                percent of the population lives in rural
                                                                                areas, we can conclude that both the leader-
                                                                                ship and the troops of the armed forces are
                                                                                predominantly of urban origin, which in
                               Comparing the size of El Salvador’s and          turn points to another weakness in main-
 rural rebellions, and
                               Colombia’s armed and police forces and           taining authority in the countryside. This
 inability to control its      their territorial deployments, the Salvado-      problem was also present in Nicaragua in
                               ran state appears much stronger. In 1980,        the 1980s, where the army—born of an
territory seem to be at
                               the Salvadoran armed forces consisted of         insurrection in the cities—was mainly of
      the heart of the         about 15,000 men, yet the (legal) paramili-      urban social origin, while the Contras—
                               tary organization had over 150,000 men           born of the serious errors of the agrarian

                               distributed in a highly organized manner by      reform of the Sandinista revolution—were a
                               municipality and village over a territory of     rural army.
                               only 21,000 square kilometers.
                                                                                The scarce population density phenomenon
                               These comparisons are mainly speculative.        may be present in other countries, but those
                               The main point is that, in spite of every-       cases did not also have a relatively large
                               thing, the FARC has been able to strength-       residual guerrilla organization, coca, and a
                               en itself militarily and become the center of    democracy unsuccessful in its ability to con-
                               Colombian politics. This fact does not cor-      trol its country’s territory. Authoritarian
                               relate with the appearance of weakness that      regimes, on the other hand, made sure of
                               the statistics would imply. What we can          their ability to exercise coercive power
                               point out, therefore, is that the growth and     throughout their territories, as in Somoza’s
                               expansion of the FARC cannot be directly         national guards, Guatemala’s self-defense
                               associated with a crisis in the political sys-   forces, or the Salvadoran army’s paramili-
                               tem. Neither is it an automatic response to      tary forces of the 1980s.

  6     Colombia: Negotiate, But What?
Colombia’s wealth of natural resources, ille-      methods of financing and securing logistical
gal crops, a tradition of rural rebellions, and    resources are notorious for being dispersed
the state’s inability to control its territory     and dependent on the different drug cartels
seem to be at the heart of the conflict. The       or on each front’s extortion and kidnapping
numerous fronts of the two guerrilla orga-         abilities. This situation emphatically reaf-
nizations reflect a high degree of dispersion      firms that issues of territorial dominance
that, given the distances and rough terrain,       and the exercise of local power are at the
must present serious difficulties in coordi-       center of the Colombian conflict.
nation. Under such conditions, it is almost
impossible to expect obedience to a central        Although an ideological-political root
authority, and it is likely that a great deal of   exists—manifested in the existence of cen-
military and political autonomy has been           tralized control structures representing the
generated among the fronts, making it less         two big guerrilla and self-defense organiza-
likely that the conflict can be solved             tions—it is difficult to evaluate the extent
through agreements made with a central             to which these forces have real authority
command structure.                                 and active control over each front, given

                                                   their scant political nature and great materi-
How and What to Negotiate? Centralized             al autonomy. The renewed attacks after the                    Controlling a
Political Negotiation and Fractionalized           January agreements can be interpreted in             guerrilla force requires
Territorial Negotiation                            two ways: the first is that the actions were
If political factors are not fueling the                                                                more than a title; it is
                                                   intended to strengthen the FARC’s position
recruitment of combatants, it may be               at the negotiating table; the second is that          fundamental that the
inferred that ideology is not the central          they indicated a rejection of the agree-
                                                                                                       leaders have a monopoly
issue, but rather personal convenience and         ments. To support the first option, the

conflicts over territorial resources. State        actions, as discussed above, should bear a           over resources.
weakness coupled with the existence of             relationship to the agenda. Yet the agenda is
alternative centers of power with economic         so general that it is impossible to establish
resources in rural areas have produced small       such a relationship.
armies which, even after achieving political
representation and a unique national identi-       The offensive of the Salvadoran guerrilla
ty, are more responsive to local than nation-      force on the capital and other cities in 1989
al conflicts. Controlling a guerrilla force        was calculated to bring about the interven-
requires more than a title; it is fundamental      tion of the United Nations and to force
that the leaders have a monopoly over              political reforms at the negotiating table. In
financial and logistical resources.                Colombia, it seems that the military activity
                                                   that took place during and after the January
In El Salvador, control over weapons and           crisis was a means for certain members of
finances by a central authority in charge of       the FARC to express their opinion about
the political management of these resources        negotiations in which they did not partici-
ensured a disciplined, politicized, and obe-       pate. It is this phenomenon of autonomous
dient guerrilla force. In Colombia, the            fronts that explains why a local FARC unit

                                                                                               INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE
                                                                                              Villalobos   Working Paper     7
                           can kill three U.S. citizens, murder a former     Attempts to bring the insurgents into
                           minister or kidnap UN officials at the same       Colombia’s halls of urban power are des-
                           time that its political leadership is negotiat-   tined to failure regardless of the guerrillas’
                           ing with the government. Negotiations that        rhetoric. Many of the human rights viola-
                           ignore the possible autonomy of the FARC          tions that at times seem incomprehensible
                           fronts are likely to contribute to an uncon-      for a guerrilla group vying for sympathy
                           trollable increase in violence.                   may possibly be related to a guerrilla force
                                                                             characterized by a fundamentally rural cul-
                           The negotiating model currently being used        ture. This leads to the perception that the
                           assumes that the FARC is a political group        rules of power and urban culture are the
                           that aspires to political power and gover-        enemy. A potential Pol Pot mentality may
                           nance. In general terms, this statement is        develop that, if allowed to take root, would
                           correct. Power is at the root of all such con-    produce even worse atrocities than those
                           flicts, and the solution must lie in the          that have already occurred, especially if one
                           reconstruction of the rules associated with       considers the drug trade as an additional
                           it. The main challenge is to discover             factor of decomposition.
                           through the nature of the conflict which

                           rules should be redesigned, and just how the      The Incorporation of Local Guerrilla
         …even with
                           interested parties are to participate in the      Commands in the Negotiations
    power, the FARC        reconstruction process. The rhetoric of           The profusion of armed groups and narrow
     and the ELN           both the FARC and the ELN has attempt-            interests means that local guerrilla leader-
                           ed to paint them as groups with revolution-       ship should be invited to participate in the
    would not obtain       ary political goals, but their military and       negotiations. It also means that the cease-
                           intellectual realities are very far from vali-    fire should be treated as an end in itself in

                           dating their stated purposes. In fact, a con-     order for the state to regain territorial con-
                           version of these organizations into political     trol of the country. This decision would
                           parties would destroy them and frustrate          inevitably lead to the creation of a territorial
                           their militants.                                  force composed of the army and the police,
                                                                             integrating insurgents to local social reali-
                           Herein lies one of the most complex prob-         ties. In pragmatic terms, this goal could be
                           lems of the Colombian peace process. The          achieved through separate local negotia-
                           traditional way of transferring power to          tions or through the participation of the
                           insurgent groups by transforming them             guerrillas’ local leadership at the main
                           into political forces is not appropriate in       negotiating table.
                           this case: even with power, the FARC and
                           the ELN would not obtain votes. The               The development of the peace process is
                           insurgents are clearly linked to a rural          slowly making apparent that we are up
                           Colombia that has little population, weak         against a dispersed and multifaceted phe-
                           state presence, and a lot of wealth—and in        nomenon that is not controllable through a
                           direct confrontation with an urban and            simple scheme of centralized negotiations.
                           democratic Colombia.                              From a global perspective, the paramilitary

8   Colombia: Negotiate, But What?
forces, smaller guerrilla organizations, and     The challenge then is how to convert a cen-
even local drug cartel armies, which—along       tralized negotiating agenda into a fraction-
with the FARC and the ELN—challenge              alized and multifaceted one that takes into
and at times substitute for the state’s coer-    account the diversity of interests of the
cive authority in rural areas, must be con-      armed groups, especially the FARC and the
sidered when analyzing the pacification          ELN. This would be the defining concept
problem. We should also keep in mind that        that would govern all negotiations, includ-
negotiations with insurgent groups in            ing those with the paramilitaries. The
Colombia have traditionally been conduct-        FARC, for example, might be encouraged
ed in a fractionalized fashion and have          to widen its representation in the negotia-
often been shaped by local characteristics. It   tions to include the leadership of the fronts.
thus becomes clear that even when there are      Territorial representation of the insurgents
scenarios of wider media and political rele-     would help guarantee global political
vance, the peace process may require multi-      accords and, most importantly, would lead
ple smaller negotiating tables, even with the    to resolving the problem of the restoration
FARC itself.                                     of the state’s authority and the use of coer-
                                                 cive force in the rural areas. Fractionalized

The alternative is for the process to turn       negotiation does not imply the considera-
                                                                                                              …the best
into continuous negotiations with some           tion or satisfaction of multiple political
becoming residues of previous ones, as           agendas; this is neither necessary nor possi-         way to counteract
occurred with the Nicaraguan Contras. In         ble. Multifaceted negotiations rather would           the problem is to
Nicaragua, the rural-urban problem was at        avoid or reduce political dissidence within
the core of the conflict in spite of the fact    the insurgency and allow the parties to dis-          follow a policy of
that the democratic reform issues had been       cuss the concrete problem of the combat-

settled since the 1990 elections and the         ants’ future.
change of government. The peace initiative
lasted almost six years with dozens of nego-     Smaller negotiations could be carried out
tiations involving groups of varying levels of   locally on a case-by-case basis, since the
importance that became gradually assimi-         fronts and groups have varying degrees of
lated—again, very much in spite of the fact      strength and social representation. On the
that the Contras were a single organization      other hand, a disarmament and cease-fire
financed and supported by the United             process may be impossible to be carried out
States. In Colombia, the level of fractional-    as perfectly in Colombia as it was in El Sal-
ization could be even higher given the           vador. Colombia will no doubt experience
autonomy in logistics and financial              guerrilla resurgence, regular banditry, and
resources of the various groups and fronts.      ex-combatants crossing over to the drug
This is why the best way to counteract the       trade. Negotiations should attempt to
problem is to follow a policy of inclusion.      reduce these problems to a minimum.
To do otherwise is to invite attack and sab-
otage by the excluded groups.

                                                                                            INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE
                                                                                           Villalobos   Working Paper       9
                            Local Peace Forces                                  da, would focus on the diverse aspirations of
                            Centralized political negotiation coupled           the insurgents and other sectors of Colom-
                            with fractionalized territorial negotiation         bian society, targeting issues to combat the
                            would use the cease-fire as a way to find a         causes of violence, including constitutional
                            solution to the issue of the state’s use of         reform, political participation, illegal crop
                            coercive force in rural areas. Territorial local-   substitution, social programs, etc. A second
                            ization of forces and control over weapons          agenda would focus on specific problems of
                            are necessary for the cease-fire to work. In        local power and on ways of distributing
                            Colombia, it is very difficult to give serious      excess wealth in the conflict areas. This lat-
                            consideration to an international peacekeep-        ter agenda would deal with all the problems
                            ing/verification force, armed or unarmed,           related to the alternative forces created by
                            given the political problems and the risk of        the various armed groups. The first agenda
                            violence. The verification process will have        would be the gala stage for the solution; the
                            to be adapted to its own reality. It will surely    second would look to solve the central
                            require some sort of international contin-          problem of occupation and state control of
                            gency force, but its main component must            the territory.
                            be Colombian. The Nicaraguan experience
                            is therefore most helpful to Colombia in            Expanding the State and Converting

“      …some of the

combatants may exert

power through public
                            that so-called disarmament brigades were
                            created consisting of an equal number of
                            army and Contra soldiers.
                                                                                Ex-combatants into Public Servants
                                                                                This process of conversion would be based
                                                                                on the elimination of the use of violence by
                                                                                local powers and the creation of institutions
                            An early commitment of the insurgencies             by which the Colombian state could control

                            to cease-fire control duties in collaboration       rural areas. This would provide a foundation
                            with the armed forces and the police (and           on which to develop effective processes to
                            under international supervision) would not          assimilate the combatants, not only into the
                            only contribute to reconciliation and guar-         public security area or the army, but also
                            antee security, but would also begin to lay         into public services such as education,
                            down the guidelines for the organization of         health, justice, and infrastructure.
                            a territorial force in anticipation of the
                            restoration of state authority in rural areas.      All of this implies that the solution must
                            This same modality could be applicable to           entail an expanded state presence in the
                            the paramilitaries and other armed groups           rural areas, incorporating the insurgents
                            that are currently supplanting the govern-          into formal jobs and educating them to
                            ment in the security area.                          respect the law and institutions. Combat-
                                                                                ants interested in electoral political partici-
                            Two Simultaneous Tables: Global Politics            pation are possibly very few, but those who
                            and Local Power                                     could assume responsibilities as civil ser-
                            To organize the content of the negotiations,        vants are probably a majority.
                            there could be two tables and two agendas.
                            The first, a global or formal political agen-

10   Colombia: Negotiate, But What?
It is vital to remember that many of the          that they can represent the government
combatants have been fighting for so long         within a single legal framework. In this
that they would find it almost impossible to      manner, some of the combatants may exert
adapt to a productive activity, and the frus-     power through public service without nec-
tration they would suffer in unsuccessful         essarily competing in an electoral process
projects would only incite another cycle of       and without upsetting democracy at the
violence. The growth of the job market            local level. A guerrilla force is fundamental-
depends on the peace and stability of the         ly a territorial organization that seeks to
country, and this is only possible if the state   build political support through pressure, but
is able to control its territory. This control,   it also looks to provide solutions to local
in turn, can only be achieved if the govern-      problems. Transforming the guerrilla appa-
ment negotiates with the alternative forces       ratus to carry out public service and security
that have come to power at the local level,       duties would not only lead to peace, but
institutionalizing and regulating them so         would also strengthen the state.

                                                                                             INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE
                                                                                            Villalobos   Working Paper   11
           I N T E R -A M E R I C A N D I A L O G U E
The Inter-American Dialogue is the premier center for policy analysis and
exchange on Western Hemisphere affairs. The Dialogue’s select member-
ship of 100 distinguished private citizens from throughout the Americas
includes political, business, academic, media, and other nongovernmental
leaders. Nine Dialogue members served as presidents of their countries and
more than a dozen have served at the cabinet level.

The Dialogue works to improve the quality of debate and decisionmaking
on hemispheric problems, advance opportunities for regional economic and
political cooperation, and bring fresh, practical proposals for action to gov-
ernments, international institutions, and nongovernmental organizations.
Since 1982—through successive Republican and Democratic administra-
tions and many changes of leadership in Latin America, the Caribbean,
and Canada—the Dialogue has helped shape the agenda of issues and
choices on inter-American relations.

                 1211 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 510
                           Washington, DC 20036

               PHONE: 202-822-9002 s FAX: 202-822-9553
       EMAIL: s WEB SITE: