The peace talks with FARC in Cuba are being conducted in great secrecy, which is making the peace effort less popular back in Colombia. Some 77 percent of Colombians were optimistic about the peace talks in September, but only about 56 percent remain so now.
The only public statements have been FARC asking for some of their senior leaders to be released from Colombian and U.S. prisons.
That is apparently not going to happen, but many Colombians wonder what kind of amnesty deals will be worked out for FARC killers who are still free. The government insists that the peace talks won’t last beyond late 2013. In addition to amnesty, the two sides have to work out details of how FARC will become a political party and what kind of economic reforms will be part of the peace package.
All this depends on the ability of the government to get needed changes passed by the legislature. So public opinion is important in all this. FARC has been losing its half century long war for over a decade now but still has 9,000 armed followers. FARC reasons that a lot of money would be saved and economic growth enabled by a peace deal and the peace talks are mostly about how to carve up that pie.
The rebels are less concerned with the public anger they have earned from decades of mayhem, murder and kidnapping. Most Colombians want justice, and sorting that out may be the most difficult part of the negotiations. FARC sees itself as the champion of the people while most Colombians see the leftist rebels as gangsters trying to get away with murder. Many Colombians want senior FARC leaders to answer for their years of murder, robbery and kidnapping. Getting any amnesty deal through the legislature will probably be the most difficult part of the peacemaking.
Although FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire that lasts through January 20th, the security forces did not reciprocate and the hunt for FARC bases and gunmen continues. The search goes on for FARC bases and economic activities (mainly cocaine related.) The military and police believe they can eventually crush FARC, but it will take years. Meanwhile each week there are several hundred casualties. Most are FARC personnel but some are security personnel or civilians.
Peace would prevent a lot of pain and loss.