Monday, July 9, 2007

Cuba, Colombia, and terrorism

I’ll leave it to others to figure out what exactly is happening in Cuba with regard to negotiations between the Colombian government and Colombia’s FARC and ELN guerrillas – but there’s no disputing that something has been going on over the past month.

Since December 2005, representatives of the ELN guerrillas and the Colombian government have had on-again, off-again meetings in Havana. Last month, talks resumed and the ELN said there’s a possibility that a framework accord (“acuerdo base”) could be reached by the end of July, including a ceasefire and release of hostages. Colombia’s interior minister dangled the possibility that with such an accord, the government might drop ELN’s “terrorist” label.

And Rodrigo Granda, the “foreign minister” of the FARC guerrillas, traveled to Havana – reportedly, for health reasons – and was said to have had talks with a Colombian government negotiator.

Colombia’s guerrilla wars are older than Cuba’s revolution, so no one should jump to optimistic conclusions about the diplomacy taking place in Havana. The ELN effort could sputter, and contacts with the FARC, a group with which Cuban officials have claimed to have limited contacts and influence, have been sparse.

But it is interesting to watch all this in light of the State Department’s perennial assertion that the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Cuba justifies the designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

President Bush is a big fan of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. This is how he began his answer to a general question about the “situation in South America” last month (from the White House transcript):

THE PRESIDENT: Sí, thank you. First, I am a big admirer of mi amigo, Presidente Uribe. He’s strong -- that's the President of Colombia. (Laughter and applause.) He’s strong, he’s courageous, and he believes in democracy. And he was -- he started off in a really very tough problem, and that is dealing with a very rich group of people who are violent, but didn't necessarily agree with democracy. And I admire the way he has led his nation.

This is what President Uribe said July 3 while discussing the potential for an accord with the ELN: “I have to thank President Castro for all the help Cuba has given.”


// An said...

Interesting thread, as these linkages are far from straightforward, my impression is that they add a complexity to the political analysis that few wish or are able to ponder-preferring to analyse the colombian conflict and possibilities of resolution as more of an internal affair - I would disagree that Cuba-Farc-Colombian government contacts are sparce, I would more likely consider them unavowable due to the politically unpallatable aspect of cocaine traffic for the cuban regime - but in any case Cuba (or in Cuba) holds many keys to resolving key aspects of the conflict in Colombia, Uribe recognizes this, one should analyse the profile of Cuba´s current embassador to Colombia and a long history of strong intervention in Colombia by Cuban secret services... What I would reject out right is to brush off whatever is happening as yet another Cuban attempt at sponsoring terrorism - everything that is involved goes beyond the conventional frameworks of terrorism or the war on terror, although indeed are also part of that "context".

leftside said...

The "war on terror" was never really meant to apply in Latin America, as can be without doubt now. If anyone deserves to be a "state sponsor of terror" today in L.A. it is Colombia and not Cuba. The only trouble is Uribe is Bush's main "amigo." I hear the WH lobbying on the Colombia trade bill is intense.

Thank you for finding that last quote from Uribe about Fidel. If just one US newspaper or foreign policy magazine would print that I would be surprised. The US press, taking their cues from Washington, love the idea of a Colombia vs Venezuela/Cuba fight.

Phil Peters said...

And if this process results in agreements, it will be interesting to know, whenever the story eventually comes out, what role Cuba played, whether it was that of a passive host or active mediator. And especially, whether Cuba tried to influence one or both guerrlla groups toward any particular position.

The Uribe quote is not unique.

For as long as these sporadic talks have been going on, senior Colombian officials, including senior military officers, have made statements saying Cuba's role is positive.

I'm not aware of any Colombian official ever complaining about the presence of guerrillas in Havana, or connecting their presence in Havana to their operations in Colombia, as the State Department designation implies.

leftside said...

Now Uribe's first cousin has been linked with death squads... the noose is tightening.