President Juan Manuel Santos meets today with President Barak Obama in the White House. The agenda for the meeting includes bilateral economic relationship, trade, narcotrafficking, and the on-going peace talks between the Santos government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). Needless to say this meeting's timing is crucial to Santos' presidential bid to run for a second term next year. But this meeting carries with it other elements that might make or break the prospects of peace.
The United States is not only the major trading partner and major market of Colombia’s exports, but also an active participant party in Colombia's 50-years long civil war. In the last ten years alone, the United States spent almost $10 billion to boost the armed forces of Colombia, preparing it for a wider regional and international role. Consequently, the United States' stance on the question of peace is pivotal. Based on previous failed attempts at negotiations, I will venture to say that without the United States' clear and unequivocal support of the peace talks with FARC, the current negotiations could end in failure.
This is not only because of the obvious imperial and hegemonic positioning of the United States in Latin America, but also because of the formidable opposition within Colombia by a host of right-wing war mongers led by the former president Alvaro Uribe Velez; they are awaiting Washington’s signal. In other words, if Obama and his administration do not show clear support for the peace talks and a commitment to the challenges of the post-conflict reforms and reconstruction—including a new approach to the drug problem—the enemies of peace in Colombia could derail the process—and they have the means to do this. Keep in mind that the right-wingers in Colombia include in their ranks elements of the military establishment, latifundistas, cattle ranchers, and paramilitaries.
The ball of peace is in Washington's court.
Nazih Richani is the Director of Latin American studies at Kean University. He blogs at nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos.