Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cuba wants "negotiated solution" to Colombia conflict

Members of FARC-EP. Photo: The Marxist-Leninist
Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday released this statement about its role in mediating the conflict between the government of Colombia and the FARC-EP.
The Cuban Revolution has had a historical commitment towards peace in Colombia and the efforts aimed at putting an end to the political, social and military conflict in that Latin American and Caribbean sister nation.

The Cuban Government has made discreet and constructive efforts to contribute to find a negotiated solution, always in response to a request from the parties involved and without influencing in the least their respective stands.

For more than one year and at the expressed request of the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP), and while strictly observing the confidentiality commitment entered into, the Cuban Government has offered its cooperation and support to hold exploratory talks that may lead to a peace process, and has also participated as a guarantor during the deliberations. At the request of both parties, Cuba has also acted as a guarantor, together with the governments of Norway and Venezuela, during the transfer of the representatives of FARC-EP to Cuba.

As a result of the exploratory talks held in Havana since February 23, 2012, and as was declared by the parties, a process of dialogue committed to peace and the settlement of a historical conflict in Colombia has opened up, which Cuba supports, being aware of its importance for the Colombian people and its significance for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Cuban Government will continue to offer its solidarity assistance and good offices in favor of this endeavor for as long as the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP request so.

Havana, September 4, 2012.
FARC-EP. Photo: Resistance Studies
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., protested the Cuban role in the Colombian conflict. Her office released this statement:
I understand the desire of the Colombian people to bring to an end the death, destruction, and suffering inflicted by the FARC on their nation. But peace by any means or at any cost, is not true peace. It is of ongoing concern that the Colombian government entered into negotiations with the FARC, an entity designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorism organization (FTO), without preconditions.

Even more disturbing is the fact the Castro regime, a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism and long-time supporter of the FARC, has been given a leadership role in ongoing discussions with FARC operatives. As we look ahead, we must make it clear that U.S. foreign policy toward the FARC, the Cuban dictatorship, and the Hemisphere must be based on U.S. interests and not be dependent on any negotiation between the Colombian government and the FARC. 
For decades, the FARC has been engaged in narco-trafficking, arms trafficking, kidnappings, extremist attacks, and the expansion of illicit activities worldwide. And the latest State Department Country Reports on Terrorism highlights an increase in violent attacks in the Hemisphere, with the FARC as the driving force behind these. U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have further unveiled linkages between the FARC and other criminal and extremist networks. U.S. policy must not change toward the FARC or any nation, entity, or individual who supports the FARC, until there is verifiable evidence that these Colombian guerillas (sic) have permanently ceased activities that undermine U.S. national security.

Some of this discussion will likely spill over into the debate over whether the United States should continue to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. William Vidal of On Two Shores argues that it's time to take Cuba off the list. On Sept. 3, Vidal wrote:
The truth is that keeping Cuba on the list is less about protecting us from terrorist attacks or denying rewards to the Cuban regime than it is about preserving the interests of three groups heavily invested in the status quo:

  1. South Florida politicians who exploit the designation to get elected and re-elected.
  2. The cottage industry of Florida lawyers who have made a killing from suing Cuba and collecting hefty rewards under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which deprives “state sponsors of terror” from sovereign immunity in U.S. Courts.
  3. The pro-embargo lobby, which knows the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act acts as a deterrent to US companies that may seek to lobby Congress in favor of lifting sanctions against Cuba, since amounts paid by the Cuban government to said companies could potentially be seized under the Act.
In conclusion, while there continue to be obvious present-day reasons to include countries like Iran, Syria and Sudan in the “state sponsors of terror” list, the present-day rationale for keeping Cuba on the list has all but evaporated. Furthering this policy undermines our credibility and only serves those who benefit from the status-quo. It is time to put an end to this charade.

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