Media Talk: Is This the End for FARC?

Talk Thursday 10th July, 2008

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Will the release of Ingrid Bettancourt – arguably the world’s most famous hostage, and FARC’s main bargaining chip – along with 14 other hostages – mean the end of FARC and the beginning of serious peace negotiations with the Colombian government?

In what is perhaps the mortal blow in a series of declining fortunes for the 44 year old insurgency movement – the release of the hostages has left the already weakened FARC with no negotiating power and has vindicated President Uribe in his hard line policy against the movement.

FARC lost its leader – Manuel Marulanda – earlier this year, as well as suffering the assassination of two senior commanders and a withdrawal of support from former proponent Hugo Chavez. Facing constant combat, the insurgency is losing members in record numbers and popular support is dissipating.

Is this now the beginning of the end for FARC? Will we see the return to the negotiating table and the commencement of mass demobilisation?

Malcolm Deas
is Director of Graduate Studies at the Latin American Centre, University Lecturer in the politics and government of Latin America, Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford. His Colombian articles have been published under the title Del poder y la gramática (1993) and his recent works are an essay on Colombian violence in David Apter’s collection, The Legitimisation of Violence, London, Macmillan, 1997, and Vida y opiniones de Mr William Wills, 2 vols, Bogota, Banco de la República, 1996.

Andy Higginbottom is Secretary of the Colombian Solidarity Campaign and Senior Lecturer in Politics and Human Rights at Kingston University. Andy is editor of Frontline Latin America. His essay Globalization, Violence and the Return of the Enclave to Colombia  is in Development, 2005 and his Killer Coke is a chapter in Dinan and Miller (eds) 2007 Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy London, Pluto.

Hernando Alvarez was born in Bogota, Colombia. In 1996 he moved to London. He wrote for various magazines and newspapers while doing a Masters in History at the London School of Economics. In 2000 he joined the Latin American Section of the BBC World Service, where he is now the current affairs editor.

Alice O’Keeffe is arts editor at the New Statesman magazine and regularly reports on Latin America. She worked for the British Council in Colombia for two years 2001-2003, and has subsequently returned many times as a journalist. She reported from Bogota during the recent diplomatic crisis between Colombia and Venezuela, where she conducted extensive interviews with former combatants from the FARC and other armed groups. She has previously written reports from Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba.

Isabel Hilton has covered a wide range of Home and Foreign Affairs. She covered the Falklands War from Buenos Aires, and subsequently reported extensively from Central and South America. In 1986 Isabel Hilton joined The Independent newspaper, pre-launch, as Latin America Editor.
Hilton joined The Guardian in 1997, where she has contributed a regular column. She contributes extensively to BBC World Service and BBC Television Current Affairs, particularly in Foreign Affairs.