Colombia and Farc agree plan to fight drug trafficking

Accord reached in Cuba just days ahead of presidential election but few details released

 Host country Cuba’s representative Rodolfo Benitez Verson (right) and Dag Nylander (centre) of Norway, whose countries are guarantors of the negotiating process, speak alongside the chief of the  Farc delegation, Luciano Marin Arango (L), aka Ivan Marquez, in Havana, Cuba. Photograph: Alejandro Ernesto/EPA.

Host country Cuba’s representative Rodolfo Benitez Verson (right) and Dag Nylander (centre) of Norway, whose countries are guarantors of the negotiating process, speak alongside the chief of the Farc delegation, Luciano Marin Arango (L), aka Ivan Marquez, in Havana, Cuba. Photograph: Alejandro Ernesto/EPA.

 

Negotiators for the Colombian government and the country’s largest guerrilla group say they have reached an agreement on ways to fight drug trafficking as part of broader talks aimed at ending five decades of war.

The announcement came last night barely a week before a presidential election that could hinge on how voters view the peace talks.

The drug accord, announced in Havana, where the talks are being held, is particularly important because officials in Colombia and the United States say that the guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the Farc for the initials of its name in Spanish, is a major drug trafficker, relying on income from the cocaine trade to finance its activities.

“Imagine a Colombia without coca,” president Juan Manuel Santos said in a televised speech, referring to the plant used to make cocaine. “That is within our grasp if we implement these accords.”

But officials offered few details of the deal other than generalities about how it would help farmers who grow plants like marijuana or coca, to switch to other crops. It will go into effect only if a full peace accord is reached, and there are still many difficult issues to resolve.

Mr Santos started the talks with the Farc in late 2012, hoping to end decades of bloody conflict, but the talks have dragged on with only limited results.

Voters will cast ballots in the presidential election on May 25th, but it appears likely that there will be a second round of voting between the top two candidates, scheduled for June 15th. If there is a runoff, it is likely to pit the center-right Mr Santos against his far-right challenger, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who is backed by former president lvaro Uribe.

Analysts say that the race is too close to call. Mr Santos has cast himself as the peace candidate, making the talks with the FARC the main element of his campaign. Mr Zuluaga and his backers, including Mr Uribe, allege that Mr Santos is willing to give away too much to achieve peace, and they are appealing to voters who want to see the Farc defeated on the battlefield.

The Farc and another rebel group, the National Liberation Army, announced Friday that they would observe a cease-fire from Tuesday to May 28th.

New York Times