After the military operation carried out on the School of Cadets General Santander on the past 17th of January 2019, the National Government takes the decision of breaking the negotiation table between the Government and the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional, and breaks the rupture Protocols agreed between the parts and accompanied by Guarantor Countries. This is not the first time that the Government pretends to not know what has been accorded y puts pressure on the international community, so they back their war-mongering politics.
The FGUN communication team, interested in knowing the position of Commander Antonio Garcia with regards to the current political situation, carries out a short meeting with the Commander to conduct this interview.
Urban Insurgency(UI): How does the ELN take the rupture of peace dialogues carried out by the government of Ivan Duque?
Commander Antonio Garcia (AG): I don’t know how to answer this question, as according the Ivan Duques government they didn’t break any dialogues, as they argue that the Ivan Duque government never formally opened them. Theres confusion in the government regarding what the instruments of a political solution imply, for example, when Juan Manuel Santos wanted to initiate dialogues with the ELN in 2012, he sent a delegation to talk confidentially and some conditions were placed in this meeting. The same could have been done in this situation. But Duque leant towards the microphone, he was mistaken, as he was no longer a candidate in a political campaign, he was the President, and the situation required governing and executing state policies, not shifting voters opinions. Therefore, what can I respond? That with regards to peace, Ivan Duque’s politics has been mistaken from before taking on a governing role. Its unknown if he didn’t want to negotiate or if he wanted to negotiate in a different manner, and a governor must be clear in this regard.
UI: What are and what is the importance of the rupture Protocols of the dialogues signed by the government and the ELN in 2016?
AG: When we were building the Agenda we discussed the risks of a rupture, specially before reaching substantial agreements, in which the guerrilla was still seen as a illegal political subject, that doesn’t abide by any jurisdiction of the Colombian state, thats the reality. I gave example of what happened to the Basques in Argelia and then in the Dominican Republic, that the Spanish state negotiated with said governments and didn’t allow the return of members of ETA. Without negotiation, a secure return must be guaranteed for the guerrilla in the same way as they left to negotiate, its a gentleman’s pact, a set of rules that guarantee the safe return of the delegation.
Its necessary to take into account that there is no clause in the Agenda Agreement that says that there is an initial agreement that establishes that “the guerrilla must abstain from being a guerrilla to enter the negotiations”, which is the current confusion that this Government has and is managed from the media matrix.
Its an interesting topics, as even within Caracol Radio there are differences, for example, Dario Arizmendi defends this media matrix, but on the other hand, Diana Calderon on Hora 20 has managed this topic in a much more professional manner.
On the other hand, the occurrences have modified possible scenarios in the future. What would have happened if the negotiating table had been in Colombia? Hardly anyone would want to negotiate on Colombian soil, and maybe not even abroad. Governments that want to act as guarantors are also being invalidated. Its a bad example for other Governments.
UI: In the Government’s arguments for breaking with negotiations are the considerations, that peace is not a policy of the current Government and therefore they are not held to the past peace public policy and that the UN Security Council recognizes the attack on the Cadet School in Bogota as a terrorist attack, and consequently there must be sanctions for those responsible. How can the changes of the Governments in turn with regards to the construction of peace in Colombia be understood?
AG: Every agreement signed by the Government in which another Government is present, be it as a facilitator, witness or guarantor, has a State character, as no delegate from any country assists these events as a person, they assist as delegates of a State, and are generally ambassadors or people with diplomatic roles.
What the Security Council of the UN says, regarding whether it is a terrorist act or not should be looked at from how they have catalogued other military actions in the world, as things are looked at from an angle of their own interests. Now with regards to the character of the action its an issue that has a discussion pending, an analysis. For this purpose we must revise whether or not it’s a Military Academy, we must look at the curriculum, of those who study and the forces that carry in out, the ranks that the future officials receive from the day they enter.
From another point of view, if we are negotiating its because theres a recognition of the existence of an armed conflict, and therefore we are the counterpart of the State and also have installations, in some of which we also offer formation at different levels, from the beginnings of the combatants to higher levels. This is why its strange to say that we can reach accords to respect some of our installations mutually. What is not right is that one part can attack whatever they consider and the other has restrictions, this would be a fight between “a tiger and a tied donkey”.
UI: How do you think that the mistaken measures with the dialogue table made by Duque’s Government may affect the peace project in Colombia?
AG: The Government’s credibility will be seriously damaged if they don’t continue the peace talks, as it wasn’t introduced with knowledge in giving continuity to the table that was being held with the previous Government. He wanted to differentiate himself so much from Santos, that he’s ended up doing nothing over his 6 months of government, maybe he lacked clear policies, it was evident that he was improvising and the commissioner inhabilitated itself as they weren’t clear about their roles: for example, what is a commissioner to do if he considers that legality is above the resolution of the armed conflict, when the conflict hasn’t been negotiated? It’s logical for him to think that the guerrilla should subjugate to such legality, and this route automatically negates any negotiation, as it considers that there must be submission.
UI: Which are the perspectives of the peace process in Colombia? Must the people wait for a new Government to discuss openly and construct political alternatives around peace?
AG: History manifests as a tragedy and a comedy. After the rupture of dialogues in Tlaxcala, Mexico, in 1992 with Gavira’s Government, we continued trying though facilitators. After, with the Government of Samper, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, the current chancellor was named Peace Commissioner, when that he acted as a democrat and we even talked via radio attempting to go back to the dialogues, and we received two emissaries from the government. We didn’t pass from attempts with Samper’s government.
In August 2012 President Santos sent emissaries to explore some possible dialogues with the ELN and the process was opened, which resulted in an agenda and other achievements. When the new Government arrived it threatened with an evaluation that nobody knew of, there was no splice between Governments and instead of offering itself to learn about the advancements, they precipitated along the road of the microphone and placing conditions on the ELN, attempting to force the guerrilla to stop being a rebel guerrilla before sitting down to negotiate.
This is the history, and therefore, sooner or later we must go back to the dialogues in search for peace with change for the people and the good of the country. Eternal war is not an objective for any society. The path must be going forwards, and not backwards as has been happening of late.
_ [*] https://insurgenciaurbana-eln.org/entrevista-comandante-antonio-garcia-mas-tarde-o-mas-temprano-debemos-volver-a-las-conversaciones-para-buscar-la-paz-con-cambios/