Press Release on 24th Round of Talks-FARC-EP

20 May

Press Release on 24th Round of Talks

– FARC-EP, May 4, 2014 –

Havana, Cuba, site of the peace talks — The 24th round of talks has led to significant advances that put us on the verge of closing the third point of discussion: solution to the problem of illicit drugs. With our proposal on the creation of a Commission of Clarification on the Conflict, we have begun to prepare ourselves for the start of the discussion on the issue of victims.

In an interview with EL TIEMPO, Luis Carlos Villegas, Ambassador of our country in the United States, stated that Colombia will not abandon certain tools such as extradition, and that this could become an instrument to ensure the non-repetition of crimes by the FARC. What is this man, architect of the criminal Free Trade Agreement, talking about? His Free Trade Agreements have plunged many Colombian families into poverty, while many of them have been forced to grow illegal crops in order to survive.

Clearly, this kind of unfortunate statement — far from contributing to the peace we all want — sounds like blackmail, which is unacceptable. Anyhow, if Villegas’ extradition is the main tool to avoid recidivism in drug trafficking, the FARC would not precisely be its target, if we take into consideration that the production and marketing of illicit drugs has been permeating the whole country for decades, starting with the oligarchy linked to financial capital. They are so buoyant today, among other reasons, because of money laundering from drug trafficking and other not so holy businesses.

Drug trafficking is a transnational, capitalist business, which has evidently penetrated institutions and the national economy and became another aspect of corruption in politics and the dynamics of violence, worsening the social reasons that generated it. As a matter of fact, narco-paramilitarism, which has caused so much damage, especially to the broad masses of the poor, has been nurtured by this scourge.

The FARC-EP, as [a] political-military organization that fights for a revolutionary change leading to social justice and democracy, considers [it] necessary to assume a collective responsibility in order to solve all the problems which generate and maintain poverty, exclusion, injustice and confrontation. This includes the problem of drug trafficking that, together with the escalation of violence, places obstacles to peacebuilding, development and reconciliation.

It would be foolish to persist in blackmail without having any moral authority, or to continue poisoning the environment with aerial spraying, which has been questioned by all experts who study the phenomenon of illicit crops. Such acts obstruct the pace of progress in building the consensus required to come to a Final Agreement.

The FARC expresses its strong condemnation and rejection of drug trafficking in all its aspects, and reaffirms its commitment to contribute effectively, with the greatest determination, through practical actions, to the solution of the phenomenon of production and marketing of illicit drugs. At the same time we express our belief that with the joint assistance of the society and the authorities, assuming the implementation of a new policy to combat the scourge, based on a focus on human rights, public health and social care, we will be able to take Colombia out of this maelstrom of evil once and for all.

With these reflections, the FARC-EP assumes as its own the recommendations from the world of specialists on how to find … solutions, and thus proposes the following approaches:

1. Look for an open discussion and promote policies that effectively prevent and reduce the harms related to drug consumption and drug control policies. Increase investment in research and analysis of the impact of different policies and programs, and replace criminalization and punishment of drug users by health care and treatment for those who need it, encouraging different governments to promote the already designed models of legal regulation, to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and safety of citizens.

2. Establish better indicators and targets to measure progress, and challenge, rather than reinforce, common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence. Countries that continue to invest mostly in a focus of law enforcement (despite the evidence) should focus their repressive actions on organized crime and violent drug traffickers, to reduce the harms associated with the market of illicit drugs.

3. Promote alternative sentences for small-scale merchants and sellers of primary drugs and invest more resources in evidence-based prevention, with a special focus on youth. We should offer a wide range of options and easy access to the treatment and care of drug dependence, including substitution treatment and prescription of heroin, with special attention to those most at risk, including those who are in prisons or in some way locked up.

4. The United Nations system should provide leadership in the reform of global drug policy. This implies promoting an effective evidence-based approach, support countries so that they can develop drug policies that fit their contexts and respond to their needs, and to ensure consistency between UN agencies, policies and conventions. In conclusion, we need urgent action: since the war on drugs has failed, policies need to be changed right away.

Press Release

FARC-EP Western Bloc Comandante Alfonso Cano, reports to national and international opinion:

FIRST: That on the 3rd of May, we handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, three minors … 15 and 16 years old (we omit their names to protect their identity), who found a way to be admitted to different units of the FARC-EP, hiding their true age. This way, they joined before the age of 15, in clear violation of the rules of recruitment of our organization, which prohibit incorporation before the age of 15, in accordance with the provisions of the Article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

SECOND: We started investigating the irregular situation of their arrival and their particular behavior, using counterintelligence methods and the version of events freely given by the three girls. We could then determine that before turning 15 and prior to joining the FARC-EP, they had been recruited, along with 7 other children, to accomplish this specific mission, by units of the National Police. This was done without the knowledge of their families. They were prepared in basic elements of militias and combat intelligence, under the stimulus of receiving a salary every month, and a larger sum was promised as a reward when they would accomplish the mission.

The period of time for them to stay in the guerrilla units had to be limited, in order to provide information that would lead to the death or capture of guerrilla comandantes, carry out sabotage and contribute to the localization of the group to be able to bomb it.

This is a recruitment of under-15s made by the Colombian armed forces, which, even if it hadn’t been done to carry out infiltration and espionage to the FARC-EP, is a war crime.

THIRD: The children, from the rural area Magüí Payan, Nariño, and El Bordo, in Cauca, once the mission was accomplished, had to desert, inviting other active guerrilla fighters [to join them], and report with weapons to the local Police.

The work of sabotage and espionage in service of the enemy are severely punished in our disciplinary regulations, as in any army at war. Considering the fact that they weren’t able to carry out any action of sabotage or espionage leading to the death or capture of any guerrilla fighter and given their status as minors, we proceeded to implement the provisions of Article 4.3 c) and d) of the Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, and as provided in paragraph e) of this regulation, we have also proceeded to inform their families and hand them over to the International Committee of the Red Cross — ICRC — so that they can be helped to rebuild their lives somehow.

FOURTH: Before national opinion and the international community, we denounce these criminal, systematic and perverse acts carried out by the Colombian State. In violation of all codes governing the laws of war and international humanitarian law, it recruits children in order to infiltrate them in our organization and send them as cannon fodder without further preparation to fulfill such risky tasks as espionage.

FIFTH: In compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law that inspire our general and disciplinary rules — imperative foundation of the guerrillas’ legality — disciplinary actions will be applied to the comandantes who didn’t fulfill the compulsory duty of comprehensive verification, and who allowed three minors to join our organization as combatants, in contravention of the above mentioned rules that govern the recruitment procedures of the FARC-EP in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions and international treaties that establish the minimum age of 15 to join the armed forces.

SIXTH: We call on the Colombian state and its armed forces, to definitely outlaw these illegal, dehumanized, old and useless practices, in times when peace with social justice is the subject of talks in Havana and a broad national debate. They only reveal the true criminal character of the regime that applies them. We also express our willingness to explain in detail the circumstances that have allowed minors to join our organization (never as combatants while they are under 15, but in the rearguard)

An agreement of a humanitarian nature would be more than appropriate to alleviate the situation of combatants, but also of the non-combatant population, for the State continues to engage them in the conflict, creating networks of informants and promoting dirty practices like the ones we are denouncing now.

Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP

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