The following Guest Dispatch was written by Ms. Lia Fowler, a journalist and former FBI Special Agent. Fowler is a columnist for Periodismo Sin Fronteras and writes for other publications in the U.S. and Latin America. Be sure to follow Lia on Twitter @lia_fowler.
In the past two decades, many Latin American countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, have fallen under Cuba-sponsored dictatorships. As Colombia teeters on the brink of joining them, some U.S. policy-makers are urging the Trump administration to help precipitate the fall with U.S. tax dollars — all under the guise of “peace.”
When Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke in May at the official release of an Atlantic Council task force report on U.S. –Colombia engagement, he was effusively welcomed by the Washington D.C. audience. Santos and his hosts promoted the U.S.-Colombia alliance and touted the president’s success in building democracy and achieving “peace.” But Santos went home to approval ratings of 14 percent. The reason for this discrepancy? While Santos’ image abroad is the result of propaganda, his favorability at home is the measure of Colombians’ reality. U.S. policy-makers should focus on the latter.
With the help of U.S. and international non-governmental organizations that blur the lines between scholarly work and lobbying, Santos successfully sold his so-called “peace deal” with the narco-terrorist group FARC and his own image to the world. Racking up awards and speaking gigs in international forums, Santos devoted his energy and the country’s resources to securing from the uninformed international community the support he couldn’t get at home. The false narrative of the Santos-FARC deal that has been accepted abroad is summed up in the Council’s report.
The “Roadmap for US Engagement with Colombia” paints Colombia as “an increasingly peaceful and prosperous democracy.” It calls on the Trump administration to commit – through millions of dollars in funding — to implementing the Santos-FARC deal in Colombia, which it calls “a like-minded democracy of increasing international stature.”
The biggest obstacle to prosperity in Colombia, it claims, is “polarization.” While it highlights “unanimous” support in the U.S. Senate for Colombia’s pursuit of peace, it characterizes the rejection of the deal by the Colombian people in an October plebiscite as a “crack” in the “policy consensus.” Glossing over the fact that only 18 percent of the population voted to ratify the deal, the report states a “revised” accord was approved “overwhelmingly” by the Colombian Congress. It concludes that opposition to the deal – not the disregarding of a democratic process or the deal itself — poses a risk to U.S. interests.
Few who endorsed the Havana accord have read the 310-page document; their understanding of the deal has come instead from propaganda pieces, like the Council’s, designed to sell it. But the reality is well-understood by the majority of the Colombian people: Santos’ imposition of the FARC deal has destroyed Colombia’s democracy, overriding the constitution, concentrating power in the Executive, and obliterating the rule-of-law.
The result of the plebiscite was ignored. Santos has rule-by-decree powers and answers only to an un-elected, six-person “verification committee” — three of whom are FARC terrorists, whose stated goal is to impose a Marxist regime.
For decades, this Cuba-sponsored armed wing of Colombia’s Communist Party resorted to massacres, bombings, and child soldiering, financed through drug trafficking and kidnapping. When negotiations began in Havana, they switched tactics, extorting the Colombian people into accepting the capitulation of the Colombian State through acts and threats of violence.
Santos and the “verification committee” have issued dozens of decrees – which neither Congress nor the Courts had any ability to challenge. Among these is a decree allowing FARC drug proceeds, estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, to go into a fund controlled by the “verification committee” – the FARC leadership – for political use. Another decree allows for the administrative expropriation of rural land, much like Chavez’ land reform that destroyed Venezuela’s agricultural sector.
FARC influence in the legislative branch was achieved through 10 un-elected seats in Congress, and 16 new voting districts that will guarantee them that many more. The tone for the takeover of the judiciary was set last month by congressman Armando Benedetti, who publicly threatened that if a certain candidate for the Constitutional Court was not elected by the Congress, the FARC would return to violence. The FARC-backed candidate was elected.
Meanwhile, six months after the signing of the accord, of some 2,000 child soldiers estimated to be held by the FARC, fewer than 100 have been released. The FARC has not disarmed and hundreds of caches of weapons were discovered to exist. Coca cultivation and drug-trafficking have reached all-time highs. None of the terrorists will serve a single day in jail, and those previously convicted of atrocities are being released from jail.
The FARC leadership – some under indictment in the U.S. – hold seminars in universities and public forums in a government-funded indoctrination campaign. Judicial persecution of the opposition continues. And while Santos has prohibited the citizenry from bearing arms, hundreds of terrorists have been equipped with government-provided weapons, as they train to be “body guards.”
It is no surprise that more than 80 percent of Colombians have always opposed the main points of the deal. The threat to U.S. security is not, as the Council’s piece claims, the will of the Colombian people to defend their democracy – the so-called “polarization.” The imminent threat to the hemisphere is the emergence of another Cuba satellite, financed by the world’s leading Cocaine Cartel. The notion that U.S. funding of Peace Colombia will promote “peace and prosperity” in Colombia is a lie, spun by paid or ideologically-aligned propagandists.