Dear NYT Editorial Board: You Don’t Know Anything About Colombia

The New York Times' recent editorial on the Colombian peace process seeks to cast blame at the feet of the current Duque administration, rather than blame the FARC for terrorizing the Colombian people for three generations.

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The New York Times’ assessment of the peace process would benefit from talking with actual Colombians (PanAm Post).

“When the Colombian government signed the peace agreement in 2016 with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist-inspired guerrilla group, it seemed a miracle to end the conflict of half a century that killed at least 220,000 people and devastated rural areas.”

Thus begins the May 24 editorial of the New York Times entitled: “Colombian Peace is Too Precious to Abandon.” In just the first three lines of the first paragraph is it already completely clear the level of ignorance that the paper’s editorial board has about the situation in Colombia.

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In Colombia there was no “half century conflict”: what happened was that for more than 50 years guerrillas, (really drug traffickers, rapists, kidnappers and murderers), tortured the Colombian population. That torture ended when former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez implemented what the NYT so criticizes: democratic security.

The word “conflict” is widely used in the media to refer to the violent actions of the FARC, but the term is incorrect and leads to misdiagnosis of the situation. I ask the gentlemen at the NYT: if a criminal arrives at a house, robs it, and then murders the owner, would you say that there is a conflict between the criminal and the owner of the house?

What we have is a victimizer and a victim. Using the word “conflict” puts the criminals and the innocents on the same level. And with this idea that they are equal, we see the dangerous consequences: guerrilla leaders are given seats in Congress, and now what we have is the guarantee of more violence. Where there is no justice it is impossible for there to be real peace.

To say that “the conflict” killed at least 220,000 people, instead of talking about the victims of the FARC, is a shame.

The NYT also says that thanks to the agreement there is now peace in Colombia. For most Colombians it was so evident that this would not be the case, that despite all the propaganda that was disseminated using all the power of the state, in the national referendum of 2016 we rejected the agreements of Havana that the American newspaper now praises.

Thanks to these agreements, leaders of the FARC who have committed all kinds of atrocious crimes are now in Congress, guerrillas who recruited and raped children will not spend a day in jail, and the extradition of guerrilla drug traffickers will be practically impossible. On account of the Havana agreements being a guerrilla is something desirable, there are bandits who pay for the FARC to include them in their ranks and thus will not have to spend a single day in jail…that is the agreement applauded by the NYT.

Those who wrote the editorial on May 24th believe that peace has been achieved? Would you be able to place a serial rapist in a seat in Congress in the United States? I do not think so. Fortunately, in the USA, criminals are targeted head on, as they should be.

Now, if indeed the NYT believes that all this is a valid sacrifice so that criminals do not continue to commit crimes, it is also wrong. Since the signing of the agreement, according to the UN, more than 57,800 people have swollen the ranks of displaced people in Colombia. People must leave their homes because they are threatened, because armed groups take their land, and because the fighting between groups of drug traffickers – including the FARC – endangers their lives.

Social leaders who are being persecuted and killed, almost all are in danger because they lead land restitution processes. The FARC, the ELN, “paramilitaries” -the name is badly used because we do not speak of thugs in the service of the government- and other groups dedicated to drug trafficking do not want to return those lands, and make it clear by killing those who insist on seeking reparation and justice.

A fact that makes clear that the agreement was useless, is that at this time, almost three years later, there are more than 200,000 hectares of coca under cultivation in the country.

Who is still committing these crimes? Who are the owners of all that coca crop? There are only two options:

The first is that we made “peace” with the wrong people, the FARC were not the bad guys and that’s why the drug crops did not decrease; neither did the displacement and the murders, which continue happening in the same places.

The second is that the FARC achieved impunity and seats in Congress without abandoning any of their businesses.

The US requested extradition to Jesús Santrich, one of the FARC chiefs, because undercover agents of the DEA recorded him agreeing to send drugs to the northern country. In the video that all Colombians could see, it is completely clear: after the agreements, the FARC leaders continued with their criminal actions.

Other FARC leaders like alias “El Paisa” and Iván Márquez are hiding, the first because apparently he does not even want to try to pretend all this about “peace” and is very dedicated to his illicit businesses. The second because he is afraid that evidence will appear against him – such as Santrich’s – and he ends up being extradited or imprisoned in Colombia. Even some Colombian media already say that the US has prepared a formal request for extradition of Márquez.

Things are clear, the FARC is still the same. Does the NYT propose that the worst criminals in the history of the country receive “Senate for jail” deal, and that we also allow them to continue committing crimes?

The American newspaper also claims that President Iván Duque has failed to comply with what was agreed in Havana in terms of giving the guerrillas universal education, means of communication, and jobs, among other things.

Surely the NYT does not know that the Colombians that do work (and that have never killed anyone) are paying for the “reintegration zones,” where the guerrillas have food and shelter. And most likely they don’t know that these places are full of women and children because the guerrillas returned to illicit activities that leave them with a lot of money.

It is possible that what Colombians have paid so far for the Havana agreement is not even half of what was agreed, but does being poor give permission to kill and do what the members of the FARC do?

You can not justify murder by saying that he is poor and that Duque did not give him a job. Nor can we ask the Colombians, who mostly have very low salaries, to maintain the guerrillas and their families for years.

In this country, a plan must be developed so that the ex-guerrillas can support themselves, that they can be productive and move forward. The key to enabling them to fend for themselves is more market and more economic freedom. Create, for example, areas in which companies can establish themselves and do not pay taxes in exchange for hiring ex-guerrillas.

However, it should be noted that many guerrillas, although they had homes and food, decided to continue committing crimes because that was the plan from the beginning. The day the guerrillas allegedly handed over their weapons, no entity could enter to corroborate the surrender. The FARC’s plan was always to enter Congress while maintaining its armed wing and its drug trafficking businesses.

But the American newspaper seems to treat them as victims. The NYT suggests that the FARC guerrillas did want peace but returned to arms because they do not have a plate of food.

Finally, the newspaper says that President Donald Trump should “ensure” that Duque “sticks” to the agreements and does not modify transitional justice so that more international investments arrive in Colombia and there is a lasting peace. Reality is the opposite!

What international investor will look favorably on a country in which criminals are part of Congress and have the power to legislate!

How will international investors invest in a country with 200,000 hectares of coca managed by criminals of international stature, and how will companies hope to operate in a place where justice does not work and is bought by the left and the guerrillas who seem to have free reign to do what they want?

The NYT does not know anything about Colombia. If anything can ruin this country, it is precisely the agreement of Havana that the American newspaper defends so much. However, one can not expect much from a newspaper that, among other things, hid for years the genocide committed by Stalin in the USSR.

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