Por Jonathan Bock, 17/10/2012, Semana.com

Last 27 August the country was shocked by an announcement that came from the Palacio de Nariño. President Juan Manuel Santos announced that for six months the Government has been developing exploratory talks with the FARC and had reached a basic agreement to initiate a negotiation table in Oslo and Havana from October 2012.
The news raised eyebrows. Ten years had passed since the talks broken Caguan and frustration that marked a turning point for Colombia. The country led by former President Alvaro Uribe began then a total confrontation against the guerrillas as the only option to end half a century of war in Colombia.

Ten years later the same actors, Colombian government and FARC, meet again, this time in Oslo, with equal intent: termination of the conflict. However, the way that the actors have come from the villages of San Vicente to the streets of the capital of Norway is not the same and both are experiencing very different realities that lived in the late nineties.

Unequal forces

A Havana Oslo and the Colombian state and military strategic arrives strengthened against the FARC. An advantage not evident for decades when the state disputed the monopoly of force with the first mafia cartels and guerrilla groups after.

Today the Army is capable of action throughout the country and in the last ten years has grown from 300.000 men 446.000. Equally, the armed forces have severely beaten the structure of the FARC and in the last two years of his death achieved number one and two, 'Alfonso Cano' and 'Mono Jojoy', and a score of different fronts commanders. Plus 3400 prosecutions of guerrillas in the past 20 months.

A rush that was recognized by the head of the FARC, 'Timoshenko' who during the speech he made official the start of talks, warned that arrived at the table "besieged by the military offensive".

"The Democratic Security Prosperity, was installed since Santos took office, is a strategy to stifle the guerrillas and sought to force them to sit at a negotiating table ", said Ariel Avila, researcher at the New Rainbow Foundation.

Meanwhile the guerrillas comes after ten years of a war that has been lost and that has forced the withdrawal of the rows and the decline of his men. It is estimated that by the end of the nineties the FARC were approximately 21.000 fighters, a decade later is less than 9.000 guerrillas, according to estimates of the Ministry of Defence.

Their structures have lost the ability to shoot at people or carrying large army attacks as happened in the late nineties. With the abandonment of kidnapping, at least officially, their only source of funding is the drug which leads to a growing criminalization of his men.

However, are far from defeated. "The weakness of the guerrilla is a reality, but is relative because they still have the potential to harm the political, to control some regions and continue guerrilla warfare ", argue from the Ideas for Peace Foundation.

With the need to rely

The list of approaches to seek peace is the same length as the frustrations and disappointments of the government and the FARC. So the primary need of this process has been to have sufficient samples to allow the other party trust.

The first was the self-control signals and resistance to negotiate through the media and have been kept secret for more than one year rapprochement between the parties. "In previous processes such parties bore no discretion and that undermined confidence", ensures an analyst at the Center for Research and Popular Education CINEP.

Another major obstacle was the death of guerrilla leader Alfonso Cano by the security forces, occurred during the exploratory phase of the talks, situation that did not interrupt the conversations.

"We have seen a number of facts that can be interpreted as part of a process to build trust between the parties. These activities include the delivery of the FARC, conducted in February a few days before the start of exploratory talks in Havana, of a change in policy regarding the practice of kidnapping and release of 10 past military and police still maintained FARC captive ", remember in CINEP.

Majority support

While there is no accompaniment of total Colombian society to President Santos and the FARC to its leader 'Timoshenko', there is a favorable environment for these approaches.

After the news, a survey by WEEK in partnership with RCN found that the 77% of respondents approved of the decision of Saints advance negotiations with the FARC. A 23% did not approve, representing eight million Colombians.

In politics the opposition is also minimal and all political parties announced their support. However, several public figures, the most prominent being the president of Alvaro Uribe, have expressed their objections to the process that initiates.

On the side of the FARC, The environment is similar. Within the General Secretariat are also opposing voices and some analysts suggest that in the setting of a demobilization would nearly 30% guerrillas who continue to commit crimes.

"I see that in recent months the FARC sending messages to the country through videos and letters that have had an impact on society", says Marc Chernick, Georgetown professor and expert on conflict resolution.

With lessons learned

In CINEP out as a very important factor the work prior to installation of the table of dialogue that have made both the government and the FARC.

This is a previous work includes a year and a half of preparation, plus six additional months of intensive work during the exploratory talks have mainly served to advance laws and initiatives that support the agreements can be reached with the guerrillas.

Since coming to the presidency, Santos promoted the approval of the Legal Framework for Peace, projects and historically claimed by guerrillas: agrarian reform, reparation to victims, and land restitution.

With the clock against

Time is a factor that will exert pressure on the two actors. Politicians and analysts already have the calculator in hand to signal that the government will have to show results in 14 months later than, ie February 2014. While it is a very ambitious deadline to have reached a definitive agreement to mean the end of conflict, itself is sufficient time for actual chances of reaching an agreement.

Before that date the Government has the difficult task of showing the country that there are unmistakable signs of the success of the process, otherwise the political cost to be borne is so high that not only the re-election of Santos seem impossible but the country, as in the 2002, will radicalize and the idea of ​​a negotiated agreement will move away. "If you get seven months Santos to stop the table, is a political corpse ", summarizes Congressman Miguel Gomez.

But time is a factor that will also play against the FARC. Although some sectors indicate that the guerrillas can play with time, as it has done on other occasions, this does not apply to this process. "It is well known tendency of delaying the guerrilla group, making it impractical to expect an agreement in such a short time ", ensures security expert Alfredo Rangel.

The exaggerated and excessive dilation of the guerrillas could be taken as a 'joke' both by society and by the government and could be a reason to interrupt the dialogue, and end what many voices have been cataloged as an opportunity not to be wasted.

But there are other factors that do not support an indefinite prolongation. "On one side is the health of Castro and Chavez, who have provided crucial support in the process but they have a very delicate health, and that at any time their situation could change ", Juan Carlos Palou highlights, expert in postconflict Foundation Ideas for Peace. "An unnecessary extension would also be detrimental to the organization of the FARC who might be threatened by increased criminalization inside", Palou concludes.

The cards are already starting this Thursday the country will seek to regain the peace, elusive for many decades.

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