News Of A Kidnapping: Will Colombian Peace Talks Survive?

Nov 18, 2014

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos talking with WLRN's Tim Padgett in New York in September about peace talks with the FARC.
Credit Presidencia de Colombia

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently told WLRN that his government’s peace talks with Marxist guerrillas were “at their most difficult moment.” After a kidnapping last weekend, we now know what Santos was talking about.

Talks to end Colombia’s half-century-long civil war with guerrillas known as the FARC had been making progress since they started two years ago. But on Sunday, a FARC unit kidnapped an army general in northwest Colombia. In response, President Juan Manuel Santos suspended the peace negotiations until the FARC releases the general and two other people he was with.

On Tuesday, however, FARC leaders said they were in no hurry to do that. And they suggested a big reason is Santos’ refusal to call a cease-fire during the peace talks.

In my interview this fall with Santos, he insisted his position was the best thing for those talks: “A cease-fire will create a perverse incentive for the FARC to simply drag their feet," he said, "negotiating but with no military pressure. But FARC spokesman Félix Antonio Muñoz said Tuesday, “What’s foolish is holding talks under fire.”

Either way, a big question is why the army general was traveling in a FARC-infested zone with no security.

Peace-talk tensions are higher now because they’ve come to especially difficult issues such as guerrilla disarmament.