Harsh rebel rhetoric as Colombian peace talks open
By Vivian Sequera, Associated Press
HURDAL, Norway (AP) – Colombia’s first peace talks in a decade were inaugurated Thursday a half world away with a demonstration of just how widely the two sides differ on how to end a vexing, nearly five-decade-old conflict. The Oslo talks were brief, symbolic and largely perfunctory. Held at a secret venue, they lasted seven hours and were followed by word that substantive talks will begin Nov. 15 in the Cuban capital of Havana. The next round will tackle “comprehensive agrarian development,” though little else appears to have been agreed upon.
The government’s lead negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, sought to set a businesslike, cordial tone in brief remarks at a joint news conference at a lakeside hotel north of Oslo. He said the government seeks “mutual dignified treatment” in the talks and doesn’t expect the sides to see eye-to-eye ideologically. His opposite number from the Western Hemisphere’s last remaining major insurgency, Ivan Marquez, said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had come to Oslo “with an olive branch.”
Then he began railing against Colombia’s “corrupt oligarchy,” its alleged masters in Washington, “state-sponsored violence,” the government’s “deceptive and backward” land policies, and the “vampires” of transnational oil and mining that FARC says are ravaging the nation. “We want to denounce the crime of capitalism and neo-liberalism,” Marquez said during a 35-minute discourse that denounced some companies and individuals by name, including a cousin of President Juan Manuel Santos and a relative of 1 of the government negotiators.
Members of the government team, separated from the FARC negotiators at a long table by Norwegian and Cuban diplomats who have acted as facilitators, looked bored and slightly annoyed, some crossing their arms, others propping up chins with hands. “There is a great chasm between the two parties that is going to be very difficult to overcome,” said political scientist Vicente Torrijos at Bogota’s Universidad del Rosario.
Colombia’s business community is also hostile to the FARC. Its TV and radio stations cut away to commercials early in the FARC’s separate news conference Thursday. Land ownership issues are at the heart of Colombia’s conflict, which is fueled by cocaine trafficking and aggravated by far-right militias that have colluded with a military widely questioned for human right abuses. Colombia’s most fertile land has been largely concentrated in the hands of cattle ranchers and drug traffickers. Colombia’s president has said he expects the talks to last months, not years, as did the failed 1999-2002 talks that were held in a Switzerland-sized safe haven. Santos ruled out a safe haven this time and rejected FARC’s request for a cease-fire.
Article continues here: http://www.whig.com/story/19858106/harsh-rebel-rhetoric-as-colombian-peace-talks-open