Challenges Lie Ahead as Colombia Celebrates Historic Peace Deal

Source:  TeleSUR
August 25 2016

challenges lie ahead.jpg

Colombians in Bogota watch the announcement of the end of negotiations and the text of the final peace deal in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 24, 2016. | Photo: EFE

Colombia has still not launched a peace process with the country’s smaller guerilla army, the ELN.

Colombia has made history in Latin America

Colombia has made history in Latin America with the groundbreaking peace deal between the government and left-wing FARC rebels, but while the over half century-long war is finally over, difficult times still lay ahead to fully realize the promise of peace in the South American nation.

IN DEPTH:  Peace in Colombia

Agreements on six key issues

The nearly four-year peace process in Havana, Cuba, between the 52-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos achieved a landmark deal including agreements on six key issues: agrarian reform, political participation, disarmament and reincorporation of former combatants, illicit drugs, victims’ rights, and implementation of the end of the war.

Chief negotiators from both sides of the conflict, government delegation head Humberto de la Calle and FARC leader Ivan Marquez, signed and spoke about this historic agreement on Tuesday evening in Havana.

The peace deal is not the end, but only the beginning

De la Calle declared that the war is over, and Marquez stressed that the peace deal is not the end, but only the beginning of an ongoing process of building stable and lasting peace.

And while Colombians are celebrating the unprecedented achievement of ending the longest war in the Americas, many are also pointing to the real challenges that lie ahead.

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One of the issues that has not been part of the negotiations in Havana, but many, including the FARC, have frequently stressed as a key part of building peace is the question of ending hostilities between the government and the country’s smaller left-wing guerilla force, the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

Former ELN commander Carlos Velandia, alias Felipe Torres, applauded the announcement of the deal, heralding it as a “new era” that could give a “peaceful” push to “other conflicts” to follow a similar path.

The international community wants Latin America to be a zone of peace

“The war is coming to an end, because the Colombian nation has demanded it, because they’ve understood the parks of the conflict, because the international community wants Latin America to be a zone of peace,” Torres told Colombia’s El Espectador. “This is an achievement that benefits the country, nobody loses, everybody wins.”

The beginning of talks between the ELN and the government have stalled, though the rebel army has said it is open to beginning a process. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has offered to host the process, playing the role that Cuba played in the negotiations with the FARC since 2012.

The importance of a peace process with the ELN

Chief FARC peace negotiator Marquez also reiterated the importance of a peace process with the ELN while speaking in Havana Wednesday.

“We have that the ELN can find a way to approach (the process) so that the peace that we long for will be completed involving all Colombians,” he said.

Another outstanding question as the FARC and government unveil the historic agreement is what will happen to Simon Trinidad, a senior FARC leader jailed in a “supermax” prison in the United States.

IN DEPTH: Who is Simon Trinidad?

Unjust imprisonment of Simon Trinidad

Trinidad was extradited to the U.S. in 2004 on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering under the watch of former far-right President Alvaro Uribe, who opposes the new peace deal. Leaked cables have show his extradition request was concocted, as the U.S. did not have any pending charges against the high-ranking FARC leader. He is now serving a 60-year sentence in solitary confinement.

USA’s role in perpetuating the war

The FARC has long argued that freedom for Simon Trinidad is a cornerstone in securing peace and reintegrating demobilized rebels into society. Speaking on Wednesday, Marquez singled out the U.S. for its role in perpetuating the war and indicated that Trinidad is still on the movement’s agenda even though negotiations in Havana have ended.

“To the government of the United States, which for so long supported the state war against the guerilla and against social non-conformity, we ask that you continue backing in a transparent way the Colombian efforts to restore peace,” he said. “We await Simon Trinidad.”

Ahead of the much-anticipated announcement of the final deal, FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday, “I recall that the FARC designated Simon Trinidad as the coordinator of the process of laying down of arms.”

The 297-page final agreement makes no mention of Simon Trinidad.

The historic deal is set to be put to a vote on Oct. 2 to ratify the agreement with Colombian society by asking voters whether or not they accept the peace accords with the FARC.

Reggae Message: The War is Over, No More War

Oh yes it was happening but now no more, yeah, yeah

It was happening

Tribal war

We no want no more a that

Tribal war

A no that we a defen’,

yeah, yeah

I’ll give Jah praises in the morning

When I hear the people say,

yeah yeah

They start sitting up and licking cup

One by one they take a little sup

Saying that the war is over, is over

We now see ourselves in unity

Celebrating with better collie

Now that the war is over

No more war


Tribal war, yeah yeah

We no want no more a that

Tribal war, yeah, yeah, yeah

A no that we a defen’

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, eah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Tribal war

We no want no more a that

Yeah yeah

Tribal war

A no that we a defen’

We now see ourselves in unity

Celebrating with better collie

Now that the war is over


Tribal war, yeah, yeah

We no want no more a that

Tribal war, yeah, yeah, yes

A no that we a defen’

They start sitting up and licking cup

One by one they take a little sup

Saying that the war is over,

No more war

We now see ourselves in unity

Celebrating with better collie

Now that the war is over

No more war

They start sitting up and licking cup

One by one they take a little sup

Saying that the war is over, is over

No more war

Tribal war, yeah, yeah

We no want no more a that

‘The War Is Over’: FARC and Colombian State sign final peace deal

Source:  TeleSUR
August 24 2016

The final text of a peace agreement will now be put to a popular vote.

the war is over.jpg

Ivan Marquez and Humberto de la Calle shake hands while Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez looks on, after signing a final peace deal in Havana, Cuba | Photo: Reuters

The final text of a peace agreement will now be put to a popular vote.

In a landmark moment in Colombia’s history, the peace delegations of the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the country’s left-wing FARC rebels gathered Wednesday evening to announce the end of negotiations and the imminent signing of a final peace accord in Havana, Cuba, after nearly four years of negotiations between the two sides of the conflict.

Raul the peace-maker for colombia.jpg

Cuban President Raul Castro oversees the handshake between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (L) and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez (R), Sept 2015.  Photo Archive

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The opportunity of a new path

The two sides of the negotiating table have spent the last several days reviewing the final text, which will be put to a popular vote before it can be put into effect.

“The war is over,” said government’s representative Humberto de la Calle. However, “We should not just celebrate the silence of the guns, but the opportunity of a new path.”

“I am certain now that this is the best agreement possible,” he continued. “But the Colombians will judge. We have to wait with humility for the opinion of the citizenry.”

A new chapter, the battle of ideas

The FARC’s representative Ivan Marquez said the final deal marks a new chapter in Colombia’s history. “Now can start the battle of ideas,” he said. “The peace deal is a point of departure, not of closure, toward the social transformations demanded by the masses.”

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos had the last word, saying from the Colombian capital: “Today ends the pain, suffering, this great national hope has become reality.”

The head of state insisted that the text of the final agreement was “definitive,” and could not be modified.

We don’t want one more victim in Colombia

“From the beginning, one principle ruled the negotiations: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Today, at last we can say that everything has been agreed,” he added.

“We don’t want one more victim in Colombia,” added from Havana Dag Nylander, a peace guarantor from Norway, which along with Cuba has been helping moving the peace process along. “A new chapter of Colombia’s history is opened,” he said, with the final deal allowing for “more social inclusion, especially of those who have been excluded and historically more affected by the conflict.”

The historic deal will mark the end of 52 years of armed internal conflictbetween government forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, founded in 1964 on Marxist demands for agrarian reform and rights for rural communities. The conflict is the longest-running civil war in Latin America.

Peace, a right of Colombian citizens

Peace, Cuban peace guarantor Rodolfo Benitez noted, is guaranteed as a right of Colombian citizens in their nation’s constitution, something that has eluded the South American nation for the last five decades.

“The sum of the partial agreements reached so far are contributing to compliance with the rights and duties guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Benitez, including the fundamental rights of campesinos, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities. The final deal, he continued, “means to address the root causes of the conflict: land, property, (and) exclusion of campesinos, affecting especially women and children.”

Serious agrarian reform

The final agreement revealed Wednesday calls for serious agrarian reform to address inequality in the FARC’s poor, rural strongholds. It also calls to allow new political forces to address the issues that initially led the FARC to take up arms, and guarantees the safety of those who elect to drop those arms to participate in politics.

The agreement also calls to protect human rights activists and labor organizers who have been targeted by right-wing paramilitaries; promoting alternatives to illicit drug production; providing reparations for victims of violence on all sides; and creating a commission, including representatives from the government and the FARC, to monitor the implementation alongside the United Nations.

Four years of negotiations in Havana

The announcement will bring an end of nearly four years of negotiations in Havana, launched in 2012. FARC leaders will now take the agreement back to their camps to share their information with their ranks, which is highly-anticipated to be the last such FARC conference with armed rebels before the group transitions into a non-military political movement in accordance with the peace agreement.

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Negotiators have already reached and announced landmark partial agreements related to five central matters: political participation, end of the conflict, transitional justice, agrarian reform, and crop substitution for illicit coca crops. The announcement of a bilateral cease-fire deal in June was widely celebrated as signaling the end of the war.

Democratic legitimacy

The vote on the final peace agreement is expected to take place on Oct.2 and is aimed at giving democratic legitimacy to the peace agreement. Electoral authorities will determine whether public funds will finance the campaigns in favor and against the peace deal.

To pass, the majority of 4.5 million Colombian voters, a 13 percent participation threshold, need to vote “Yes” in the plebiscite. In the unlikely event that the deal is voted down, it would not mean that aspects of the peace agreement would be renegotiated, but it could frustrate the implementation of the deal. The government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said recently that it would bea “huge mistake” to try to reopen negotiations with the FARC and that Colombian society would have little to gain from such a move.

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Far-right former president opposes peace

Santos and the FARC evidently support a “Yes” vote in the plebiscite. Far-right former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, whose presidency saw record level of human rights violations and people fleeing the country as refugees, has been pushing for a “No” vote. According to a recent Gallup poll, of the half of the population that had made up their mind on how they will vote, 67.5 percent are expected to vote in favor of ratifying the final peace deal, while 32.5 percent would vote against it.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Radio Caracol reported that most issues have been resolved. “Both parts agreed to design a new proposal for a more sensible reinsertion for the FARC fighters, while the government committed to present an amnesty bill,” the outlet reported.

The FARC argues that the end of the war is the beginning of peace and a process of reconciliation to unite “two Colombias,” one of which represents the marginalized groups that have suffered most under the armed conflict.

Colombia’s over five-decade civil war has killed over 220,000 victims and uprooted some 6.3 million people, making it home to the second largest population of internally displaced peoples in the world after Syria.

Fidel and the advancement of Cuban women

Source:  Granma
August 19 2016

by Jesús Jank Curbelo |

The colloquium “Fidel and the Women’s Revolution” provided an opportunity to review Cuban history and challenge modern day “discriminatory culture

fidel and the advancement of women.jpgPhoto: Ismael Batista
Fidel and gender equality

The colloquium “Fidel and the Women’s Revolution,” which took place yesterday, August 18, represented a chance for participants to explore in greater depth the Comandante en Jefe’s ideas regarding gender equality.

The event also provided an opportunity to review Cuban history, challenge modern day “discriminatory culture” across the world, and provided a guide “to use in the present we are building today and the future we dream of,” according to Teresa Amarelle Boué, a member of the Party Political Bureau and secretary general of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC).

Amarelle Boué noted that the Revolution changed the history of the nation, and above all the lives of Cuban women. Central to this was Fidel, whose ideas and efforts have been crucial to the gains made by this sector of Cuban society to date, she stated.

Fidel 1959:  Women too need to be emancipated

The FMC Secretary General added that “In his first speech to the Cuban people on January 1, 1959, in Santiago de Cuba, our beloved Fidel showed, once again, his concern for women’s situation, stating: “Women are a sector of our country which also needs to be emancipated, as they are victims of discrimination in the workplace and in other aspects of life.”

This profound humanist vocation led Fidel and Vilma Espín to create the FMC; celebrating its 56th anniversary on August 23, noted Amarelle Boué.

Since its founding the organization has struggled to ensure full equality for women and that they occupy their “rightful place in society,” stated Yolanda Ferrer Gómez former FMC secretary general, 1960-2007.

The historic contribution made by Cuban women to the country

Meanwhile, journalist Marta Rojas highlighted the importance of remembering the historic contribution made by Cuban women to the country, citing figures such as Ana Betancourt, Mariana Grajales, Juana Borrero and Celia Sánchez: “women of different social and cultural classes, but extremely important to Cuban identity.”

Likewise, Brigade General Delsa Esther Puebla (Teté) recalled her experiences alongside the leader of the Cuban Revolution in the Sierra Maestra.

tete puebla y fidel.gif

In La Plata, Tete Puebla, next to Fidel, with Celia and others.  Source: Granma

Likewise, Brigade General Delsa Esther Puebla (Teté) recalled her experiences alongside the leader of the Cuban Revolution in the Sierra Maestra.

During the war, she noted, women did everything: we worked as nurses, teaching campesinos to read…Later Fidel taught us how to shoot, and created the Las Marianas platoon, and well, just like he said, a people where men and women fight together, is an invincible people.

Brazil Foreign Ministry Workers Launch First Indefinite Strike

Source:  TeleSUR
August 23 2016

Intransigence of interim government’s foreign minister also cited as a problem.

brazil foreign ministry workers strike.jpg

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry workers protest in 2012. | Photo: Facebook / Sinditamaraty

Workers from Brazil’s Foreign Ministry entered the second day of the union’s first indefinite strike Tuesday for higher wages and to protest the intransigence of “interim” Foreign Minister Jose Serra in the face of the union’s demands.

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The strike kicked off Monday at 12:00 p.m. local time in Brasilia after over 1,300 workers of the National Union of Public Servants of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known as Sinditamaraty, voted earlier this month to greenlight the labor stoppage, union statements indicated.

According to the Sinditamaraty, the staff will maintain a 30 percent capacity to cover what are deemed essential services, including passport issuing and consular assistance, to ensure there is not a total disruption of public services in the ministry.

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Wage talks

Wage talks have long languished after the union proposed a 27.9 percent wage hike early last year to bring salaries in line with similar positions in other public services. The union argues that even that increase wouldn’t cover wage losses since 2008, which has hit lowest-rank workers the hardest at over 30 percent losses. Workers have also raised complaints in recent months over delays in the payment of their housing allowances, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported.

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“Valuing the institutions means valuing the workers,” said Sinditamaraty President Suellen Paz in a statement. “The workers’ view is that the lack of political will to solve problems devalues the institution as a whole.”

Social media campaign

Workers rallied outside the Foreign Ministry building in Brasilia Tuesday, with plans to continue demonstrations on Wednesday. The union has also announced a social media campaign aimed at increasing pressure for talks on acting Foreign Minister Jose Serra, appointed by unelected “interim” President Michel Temer.

Foreign Ministry laborers outside of Brazil are also organizing actions.

The strike committee raised concern on Tuesday over reports received by the union that interns in the ministry had been “compelled” after the launch of the strike to act as scabs and cover the duties of the workers who walked off the job. In a statement, union leaders urged the ministry to respect labor laws and the parameters of the government’s internship program.

Video: Leaked recording reveals plot to oust president Rousseff

Media silence

Despite marking an historic job action for Sinditamaraty, the strike has received scant coverage in Brazilian media.

The strike comes just days before the Brazilian Senate will launch a trial Thursday against suspended President Dilma Rousseff, the final step in the impeachment process that could permanently remove her from office with a two-third Senate majority as early as next Tuesday.

OPINION:  The Future of Brazil Is Now!

Temer and Foreign Minister Jose Serra embroiled in massive corruption charges

If Rousseff is ultimately ousted, Temer and his all-male Cabinet will be installed for the rest of her term until 2018. Both Temer and Foreign Minister Jose Serra have been embroiled in massive corruption charges, accused of accepting millions of dollars in corporate kickbacks as part of the Petrobras state oil scandal.

A plea bargain deal recently revealed that Serra received over US$7 million from a slush fund of the construction company Odebrecht to finance his unsuccessful 2010 presidential campaign against Rousseff. Serra also unsuccessfully ran for president against Rousseff’s predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2002.

Serra has also come under fire for making promises to multinational oil corporations, according to WikiLeaks cables, saying that he could easily push for privatization of the state oil industry and change laws to open up Brazil’s significant offshore oil reserves to foreign exploration and drilling.

WATCH: Brazil’s Foreign Minister Confused About His Country’s Name?

Indigenous Activists Detain Panama’s President for 2 Hours

Source:  TeleSUR
August 23 2016

The Indigenous protesters are upset about a government plan to develop a hydroelectric project they fear will destroy their lands.

Indigenous activists detain panama's president.jpg

Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, President Juan Carlos Varela and Ngabe Bugle representative Silvia Carrera | Photo: EFE

A dozen Indigenous people detained the president of Panama at a school on Tuesday to protest a deal he signed that could lead to the building of a highly controversial Barro Blanco Dam project in Chiriqui Province. Construction on the hydroelectric dam, which is nearly finished, was frozen last year in response to protests.

RELATED:  Panama Govt Suspends Barro Blanco Dam Under Indigenous Pressure

“Burn down”the agreement to build the dam

President Juan Carlos Varela was detained after he was about to give a public speech praising a recent deal with some Indigenous leaders to resume construction. Opponents of that agreement threw stones at police cars, injuring four officers, reported local media.

The president’s security team immediately took Varela and Indigenous representative Silvia Carrera inside a nearby school, where they were forced to stay for two hours while the Indigenous dissidents threatened to not let them out until the agreement was “burned down.”

Movimiento 10 de Abril

The dissidents are part of Indigenous group Movimiento 10 de Abril, or M-10, a movement representing communities affected by the dam. The M-10 denies Carrera the authority to represent them, saying she is “sold to the government.”

They blocked the school’s main entrance for two hours, until Varela threatened to arrest the dissidents if they did not let him go.

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The hydroelectric project will soon be resumed … President Varela

“This is just an isolated incident promoted by a dozen disrespectful Indigenous people that do not officially represent the Ngabe Bugle community,” the president said after he was released. He affirmed that the hydroelectric project will soon be resumed, in accordance with the deal signed with the official Ngabe Bugle authorities as soon as Congress ratifies the text within the next 30 to 60 days.

Under the deal, the government will seek another independent firm to carry out the project and remove the license initially assigned to Panamanean mining firm Generadora del Istmo S.A., or Genisa.

Until the government finds a new contractor, Genisa’s shares will be placed in Panama’s National Bank. European banks are also funding the project, including Germany’s DEG, Deutsche Entwicklungsgesellschaft and Netherlands Development Finance Company.

Future projects will be subjected to popular consultation

The government has also agreed to cancel all the licenses for hydroelectric projects planned on the Tabasara River. Future projects will also be subjected to popular consultation and require approval from official Indigenous and campesinos authorities.

But according to M-10 leader Ricardo Miranda, the floodgates on the dam were already opened in some places on Saturday afternoon in order to start filling the reservoir, flooding the lands of dozens of nearby families.

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Barro Blanco dam will flood nearly 15 acres of Indigenous lands

Barro Blanco dam, whose construction is 95 percent finished, will flood nearly 15 acres, or 6 hectares, of Indigenous lands surrounding the site of the dam on the Tabasara River.

The Ngabe Bugle communities affected by the project—representing about 170,000 people—have argued that their rights to free, prior and informed consent under International Labor Organization Convention 169 have been violated and that they never gave permission for the dam.

The local Ngabe Bugle people

Critics of the dam fear that the project will displace tens of thousands of people, harm the local agricultural sector, and flood Ngabe Bugle land and traditional sacred sites. The Tabasara River is fundamental to the livelihoods of the local Ngabe Bugle people, who rely on it for water, fishing, and agricultural production along its fertile banks.