Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) maximum leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko” wants senator and former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez to jump on the peace bandwagon.
In an open letter disclosed Sunday, “Timochenko” called on Uribe to “appeal to wisdom” despite the recalcitrant position of a two-term president and leader of the Centro Democrático party who is calling on Colombians to reject the peace process by “civil resistance.”
FARC leadership traded in pipe bombs for pens as talks in Havana advanced through a six-point agenda, and today, senior FARC officials run blogs in which the word “peace” is generously pasted in headlines.
Even Timochenko, one of the FARC’s more guarded commanders — previously known for belligerent communiqués hacked out on a typewritter and datelined “deep in the jungle” or “high above the cloud forest” — has recently invited Colombians to rally around his most prevalent noun: “peace.”
In his most recent missive, the guerrilla leader reflects on the course of the four-year long talks in Havana.
“If we have learned something (…) it is that when you dialogue to agree on a civilized solution, it is impossible to impose your own aspirations. It is not about giving up ideas and principles, but to appeal to the wisdom of making mutual concessions,” he said.
Timochenko admits that, “Fifty-two continuous years of bloody confrontation were insufficient to defeat the Colombian state,” despite the fact that just more than a decade ago, on Aug. 7, 2002, the FARC nearly assassinated Uribe Vélez as he was being sworn in as president.
The mortar shells which rained down on the presidential palace where the inauguration was being held killed 14 and wounded 40.
Once elected, Uribe launched full-scale attacks on the 12,000-strong guerrilla, debilitating their chain of command, killing senior commanders including alias Raúl Reyes, Ivan Ríos and the organization’s mass kidnapper, field marshal Mono Jojoy.
Despite decades of attacks and counterattacks, Timochenko calls on Uribe to recognize the “cruelty and uselessness” of war. “This is what has led us to seek peace through dialogue,” he said.
But his words are hardly a surrender and are spiked with rancor regarding Uribe’s all-out assault on FARC. “Any military action would be rubbed in our faces, while the authorities and the mainstream press expressed delight each time guerrillas were being killed.”
On the death of his predecessor, Alfonso Cano, during President Juan Manuel Santos’ first term, Timochenko claims the government “dumped the body of comrade Cano at our feet.”
In what appears to be a plea for some sense of remorse, the FARC’s leader nudges the right-wing senator stating, “hopefully someday you’ll understand the moral force you need to continue talking when this is done to you.”
In a direct rebuke of Uribe’s affirmations that the peace process in Havana is a front for the terrorist organization to continue down the path of its criminal enterprise, sanctioned by the executive and with legal guarantees of impunity, Timochenko tries to set the record straight.
“Mr. Uribe, the agreement of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace has been applauded even by the International Criminal Court. It is true that it is impossible to satisfy everyone, but when the government of the United States, the United Nations Security Council, the Swiss government and countless scholars speak satisfactorily about it, don’t believe that the FARC is so sly as to be able to fool so many.”
After a few more paragraphs from the commander lamenting the dead and the violence caused by a half-century of conflict, he concludes with a very personal appeal to the hard-line politician. “With peace we all win, there won’t be any losers.”
Uribe received the letter and according to a Semana magazine headline “dodged” his responses.
The former head of state rebuked FARC’s “total impunity” claiming that criminal activities across the nation are on the rise, from extortion to drug trafficking, and this can be traced to the peace table in Havana. The senator also asserted that FARC has grown in numbers “from 6,800 to more than 17,000.”
On the heels of Uribe’s indecision, Timochenko sent another letter Tuesday, further insisting that the two open a line of respectful dialogue. Uribe had not responded as of Wednesday afternoon.
Even though the former president may have avoided responding directly Timochenko’s invitation to “talk calmly about the future of our nation” for the time being, both men are rarely at a loss for words, and this unprecedented exchange of letters has at least afforded two bitter adversaries some degree of civility.