Colombia. In the second round of the presidential
election June 20, Juan Manuel Santos, leader of an alliance
of center-right parties, won a smashing victory over
Colombian environmentalist Antanas Mockus. Santos, who lost
a victory by just barely a margin in the first round of
elections in May, received 69 percent of the votes cast,
against just 28 percent for Mockus. In general, Santos's
message of national unity and job-creation measures, given
that Colombia has South America's highest unemployment rate,
has gained greater hearing among voters than Mockus's
promises of welfare through tax increases. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the victory was
also seen as a sign that voters want a continuation of the
policies pursued by Álvaro Uribe, who resigned from office
after eight years and, among other things, stood for an
uncompromising policy towards the country's leftist
At the same time, the Santos alliance received great
support in Congress; 80 percent of the senators and 85
percent of the members of the House of Representatives are
behind him during the coming term.
In recent years, the increasingly strained relations with
neighboring Venezuela improved somewhat through the election
of Santos as president of Colombia. Admittedly, in mid-July,
Defense Minister Gabriel Silva published evidence that the
top leaders of guerrilla groups FARC (Fuerzas Armadas
Revolucionarias de Colombia) and ELN (Ejército de Liberación
Nacional) were hiding in Venezuela with President Hugo
Chávez's fond memory. While Chávez refused to come to the
newly elected Santos presidential installation in Bogotá on
August 7, Santos declared that he was steadfastly adhering
to his predecessor Uribe's policy. But within three days of
the installation ceremony, Santos contacted both Chávez and
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, with whom Uribe had
disputes, and all heads of state expressed their will for
peace and consensus.
In the war against the FARC, the government won a major
propaganda victory in late September when the guerrilla
group's "field marshal" and military strategist Victor
Suárez, better known by the nickname Mono Jojoy, were killed
in the Macarena Mountains in southern Colombia.
In June 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights declared itself willing to advise the victims
of the paramilitary groups in the country. That same month,
they had been granted political amnesty for their crimes,
and the same amnesty should be extended to crimes committed
by the AUC, which is responsible for the vast majority of
human rights violations of previous years. For more than a
year, there had been secret negotiations on amnesty and
demobilization between the government and the AUC. Since
November 2003, around 5,000 members of these death patrols
had already been demobilized, and the extension of the
amnesty law to cover the AUC should pave the way for the
demobilization of an additional 10,000 death patrol members.
Acc. the secret agreement between the government and the AUC
would then have 20 state attorneys max.
Since 2003, FARC and ELN had been somewhat penetrated by
the defense of the Uribe government's total war, but were
not as Uribe had wished to be crushed. In January 2005, FARC
laida new strategy rather than its guerrilla battle: Plan
Resistencia. The plan operates with attacks by small and
medium-sized guerrillas against the state security forces.
Throughout 2005, the FARC maintained a high level of
activity in which the military in the central and southern
parts of the country were forced back. In May, internal
disagreements in the military culminated in the strategy of
the Secretary of Defense firing 4 generals. Until the March
2006 presidential election, the FARC wants to demonstrate
that President Uribe's Plan Patriota has failed. At the same
time, the government's total war has created a huge internal
refugee problem. About 3 million Colombians live as
internally displaced people in their own country.
In December 2005, the government initiated exploratory
peace talks with the ELN in Cuba.
A free trade agreement between Colombia and the United
States was signed in February 2006. The agreement was
subsequently ratified in the parliaments of the two
countries. The agreement is one of the only ones the US has
succeeded in contracting with Latin American countries,
which for the most part distances from US hegemony.
President Uribe was re-elected at the March elections with
62% of the vote.
In 2007, Venezuela offered itself as a mediator in peace
talks between the FARC and the Colombian government.
However, the Colombian government tightened its legs for the
peace talks that collapsed. In January 2008, the Venezuelan
government officially declared that, unlike the US and the
EU, it does not regard the FARC as a terrorist organization,
but as a legitimate armed rebel organization. This attitude
is shared by most Latin American countries. In January 2008,
the FARC released two prominent Colombian politicians who
had been in one of the FARC's prisons for several years.
In June 2007, the FARC announced that 11 out of 12
imprisoned politicians had been killed by the Colombian
military during an armed rescue operation in Valle de Cauca.
At the same time, the FARC invited the International Red
Cross (ICRC) and human rights organizations to investigate
the deaths and circumstances of their deaths. The government
responded again by claiming that the politicians had been
executed by the FARC.
In February 2008, the Colombian government organized a
protest demonstration against the FARC.