5 Reasons Why Colombia is Front Page News in March

World events have conspired to make Colombia front page news in March 2013. Chavez is dead, German pensioners have been freed by the ELN, the FARC and the government are at the negotiating table in Cuba, the Sinaloa Cartel is operating in Colombia; and Medellin is chosen as the World’s Most Innovative City…Colombia is undeniably at the fore of the news agenda in March.

President Hugo Chavez

President Hugo Chavez

  1. Why Venezuelan President Chavez Mattered to Colombia

 

You could write volumes about this, but the very fact is that his actions as a counterweight in charge of neighbouring Venezuela achieved the unthinkable (under President Uribe), that of getting the FARC to the negotiating table. I am no chavista, and so I will keep this short and I will not celebrate anyone’s death, but now the Colombian people will get to see how far Venezuelan meddling in Colombian politics will extend with Maduro in charge until the elections on April 14, and then probably after that. Venezuela needs to put her house in order and so Colombian politics will be secondary.

the ELN insignia

the ELN insignia

 

2. German Pensioners Freed by the ELN

I referred to the ELN guerrillas in an earlier blog as spoilt children “throwing their toys from the crib like a toddler wailing for attention”. I will not alter my stance on this point. The ELN held two German pensioners for over 3 months in god knows what conditions on the spurious charges of “being spies”. Sure, the ELN wants attention, demands to be included and craves credibility. This act only pushed them further from the agenda. Numbering some 2,500 combatants they are still a force, but claims of kidnapping to highlight the government’s policies of selling of the nation’s mineral wealth is kind of ironic when it is possible that they are gaining more income these days from extorting the very companies doing the mining. The government as always will always want to keep actors in this armed conflict apart when it comes to dialogues. Presidents Betancur, Barco and Gaviria all tried dialogues en masse. President Santos has studied this and would rather deal with each group on its own.

 

Can Cuban diplomacy aid the peace process in Colombia?

Can Cuban diplomacy aid the peace process in Colombia?

 

3. The Dialogue between the FARC and the Government

 

I am sure many observers of this situation suspect that several conditions were already agreed between the FARC and the Government before they even sat down in Havana. I don’t want to sound naïve, but, anything that comes from these “peace talks” in Havana has to be positive. If there can be some agreement reached regarding agrarian reform then this is massive. It remains to be seen how much political terrain the FARC will cede when it comes to talking about lands seized by members of their group. Dialogue is a two-way process and we need to see more evidence from Ivan Marquez and co that they too should be asking pardon for crimes committed.

 

The Sinaloa Cartel's reach in Mexico. Courtesy of http://conocimientos-la-mafia.blogspot.com/2011/04/el-cartel-de-sinaloa.html

The Sinaloa Cartel’s reach in Mexico. Courtesy of http://conocimientos-la-mafia.blogspot.com/2011/04/el-cartel-de-sinaloa.html

 

4. The Sinaloa Cartel is Operating in Colombia

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but, the fact that it is being openly reported in the national press is quite revealing. I have mentioned it in this summary since it is imperative the government and the FARC work together to end their conflict and edge the Mexican cartel out and additionally that the government and Maduro in Venezuela come to some sort of agreement how to police the borders. With the Sinaloa cartel here, allegedly in five areas of the country, this leaves little doubt that there are other foreign cartels in Colombia as well. This needs to be sorted out as soon as possible to prevent an escalation of violence.

 

Medellin

Medellin

 

5. Medellin, Oh Medellin, Well Done

 

Excellent news for Medellin, on the front page of the international media for all the right reasons and I too can celebrate this as well. Yet another kick in the teeth and up yours to Bogota from the Colombian second city. If only the capital could pull herself together to win something like this, perhaps the green shoots of progressive recovery are showing, but then again, maybe it’s too early to say. Keep on truckin’ Medellin, Colombia is grateful.

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