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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 17:57 GMT
Colombia: End of the line for peace?
The peace process in Colombia is on the brink of collapse after the breakdown of talks between the government and leftist rebels.

Colombian troops are moving towards the demilitarised zone handed to the rebels at the start of negotiations in 1998.

Retaking the rebel safe-haven will probably mark the end of the three-year-old peace process, aimed at ending Latin America's longest-running insurrection.

Many Colombians are tired of the lack of progress in the talks. But analysts agree that the breakdown of negotiations will only lead to greater bloodshed.

Is this the end of the peace process in Colombia? What happens now? Can the international community intervene?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The international community through the United Nations should insist upon having a presence in the territories previously occupied by the FARC to ensure that paramilitary reprisals are not carried out. Also, the guerrilla and government should be strongly encouraged to negotiate peaceful co-existence in the presence of a third neutral party - e.g. talks held in The Hague before the European Commission.
Peter Mayne, United Kingdom

A succession of Colombian governments have allowed and, really, enabled the systematic killing of opposition politicians (including MP and presidential candidates) as well as critical journalists, union members, independent judges, lawyers, artists or anybody else who in the mildest manner appeared to be challenging the rule of the two "democratic" parties that run the country since 1948! The leaders of other guerrilla movements that turned in the weapons and became legal political parties were all assassinated, even onboard an airplane which was checked before by government agencies. I am not surprised that many Colombians do not see any alternative but armed opposition to bring about any changes in this country. Our governments, Britain, Germany, US, close their eyes just as systematically to the appalling Human Rights situation in Colombia and reduce the conflict there to a war against drug traffic or "thieves".
Christian von Baudissin, Germany

Until the death squads are halted, there is no way that FARC can turn to peaceful political methods

Brendan Tuohy, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Under cover of a supposed war on drugs, the US is arming and training its Columbian proxies for war. While pretending to disapprove of the right-wing death squads, in fact the US government knowingly supports them by backing the death squad leaders in the official army. Until the death squads are halted, there is no way that FARC can turn to peaceful political methods, since they remember all too clearly the massacres of left-wingers the last time that was tried.
Brendan Tuohy, Aotearoa/New Zealand

It is clear that FARC is only interested in the status-quo. They don't want control of the country and they don't want to hand back control of the edges of the country - this is why they do not negotiate peace. The unfortunate result is that the Colombian government must now attempt to use force to extract FARC from the regions they control. If only it were this simple. It will only invite the paramilitaries and drug traffickers to move into the vacuum. What a horrible dilemma. The Colombian government needs to learn to back military might with economic and educational investment in the poor regions of Colombia. My hope is that the US, Europe and Japan will help Colombia succeed in this aspect of the war.
Juan Tellez, USA

I have returned to New York after having lived three years in Colombia. My family has a small farm no further than 30 miles from Bogotá, in a red zone. Delinquent violence in that area has become rampant due to the lack of state presence. In this area everybody has to be careful about what they say or do. Those who are not dirt poor have to be careful to not demonstrate any kind of economic means for fear of becoming the target of kidnappers.
Gustavo Adolfo Ortiz, New York/Colombia

I strongly believe that the future of my country is uncertain. If there was no agreement with Pastrana who has really tried harder than previous presidents, there will no agreement with anyone. We need the international community to intervene actively in this problem, because it is also your problem or at least you are part of it when you buy cocaine and allow illegal drugs to be sold in your countries
Samuel Arenas, Colombia

For four years FARC hampered all the government's attempts to start negotiations and used delaying tactics to stay in the zone while they committed all sorts of atrocities against the Colombian people. This explains the failure of the peace process. FARC's atrocities have been denounced by many human rights organisations. They do not have any support at all among the Colombian population. Researchers have shown that more than 95% of Colombians abhor FARC.
Andrew, USA

No other government has tried harder

Juan Escobar, UK
I heard the President's speech and can only sympathise with him. No other government has tried harder. Pastrana feels fooled and used by FARC who have used the excuse of not having enough "guarantees" in the "demilitarised area". What other government would offer a territory the size of Switzerland where the rebels have been left alone to do as they please including holding hundreds of kidnap victims, allowing and benefiting from illicit drug production and terrorist training?
Juan Escobar, UK

Some analysts think that the breakdown of the negotiations will lead to bloodshed. It seems to me that these so-called analysts are not living in Colombia. The bloodshed is already there, every day. Hundreds of Colombians are afraid of everything...even traveling between cities, because they could be killed or kidnapped.
Luis Rodriguez, Colombia

The only solution to the conflict has to be a negotiated one

Terry, Wales/Colombia
I dare say that there will be some last minute cobbling together to kick-start the talks again. At the end of the day everyone knows that the only solution to the conflict has to be a negotiated one. The military alternative is not viable and is pretty horrendous to contemplate.
Terry, Wales/Colombia

As long as North Americans pay for what the Columbians produce, the Columbians will continue fighting over the money.
Richard Hicks, USA

It is high time that the government adopts a hard line against a group that consists of nothing more than common thieves and murderers. Colombians have suffered for long enough at the hands of guerrilla troops and it is time that action was taken in order to convey the message that enough is enough. Yes people will die and yes it is going to be an ugly war but at least we will be rid of the cancer that is the guerrilla and our nation may once again get back to building a path to normalcy.
Nico, UK/Colombia

I return with some trepidation to Colombia this weekend. The government's intentions to make good on their threats to retake the FARC zone seem at odds with the track record of the Pastrana administration. Why the sudden change in their final months? Is it a case of macho posturing? I hope not because as disillusioned as Colombians may be with the process I feel outside of the wealthy elites there is little appetite for full on war.
Breendan, Ireland/ Colombia

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