The peace negotiators came to the defense of relations with Cuba after the Democratic Center Party asked that the government make a decision along the lines of the one by the United States that included Cuba on the list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.

SEMANA, January 15, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

A controversy in the area of international policy was generated in Colombia after the outgoing President of the United States, Donald Trump, decided to go back to including Cuba among “governments that are state sponsors of terrorism.”

“With this measure, we return to placing responsibility on the government of Cuba, and we are sending them a clear message: the Castro regime has to stop supporting international terrorism and subverting justice in the United States,” stated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a few days ago.

Among the reasons given by the United States government for making this decision is that Cuba “supports” the ELN, which the United States considers to be a terrorist group. The Democratic Center Party joined the decision and requested the Iván Duque administration to proceed in the same way and examine the relations between the two countries.

“In our country’s diplomatic relations today, Cuba is a real obstacle to reaching that peace with justice that all Colombians are longing for. Therefore, we respectfully solicit a careful review and decisions of substance with respect to relations with the Cuban regime that is being led today by Miguel Díaz-Canel,” states the letter to Iván Duque, bearing the signature of various representatives of the Party.

In response, Humberto De La Calle and Sergio Jaramillo, two of the principal negotiators of the Peace Agreement with the FARC, responded to the solicitation by the governing Party and argued that, in their view, carrying this out would be counterproductive for the relations between the two countries.

“As representatives of the government of Colombia (2012-2016), with all of the differences that we might have with the regime in Cuba, we are obligated to recognize and to be thankful for the generous spirit and professionalism showed by Cuba in support of peace in Colombia,” stated the two signers of the Agreement.

One of the main reasons they emphasized is that during nearly five years of negotiations, the government delegation was in Havana all that time, talking with the FARC in order to come to an agreement.

De La Calle and Jaramillo point out that Cuba, in spite of its scarcities, placed at their disposal the infrastructure necessary to carry out the negotiations. “In a situation that is not exactly one of abundance, Cuba placed at our disposition a multiplicity of houses, conference rooms, and—much more important—their most expert diplomats,” states the letter.

And they concluded: “We are saying this with absolute certainly; without the commitment and support of Cuba there would not have been a Peace Agreement in Colombia.”

The negotiators of the Agreement with the FARC also pointed out that “It’s preposterous and an unparalleled act of governmental ingratitude,” toward Cuba that in the setting of the negotiations with the ELN, Duque has demanded that members of the guerrilla group be turned over to local authorities.

“The fact that the ELN has committed an atrocious terrorist act at the National School for Police Cadets in Bogotá—which we most vehemently condemn—and that the government, as is its right, has abandoned the negotiations, does not change the terms of what has been formally agreed to by Colombia in the framework of the peace process,” they say.

Likewise, in their communication, on several occasions they link the Colombian government to Trump’s. “The current administrations prefers to ignore Colombia’s international obligations and make a play for a strategy of the same cut as the outgoing US administration, whose objective from the very beginning, as is easy to guess, was to put Cuba on its list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.”

They also took the opportunity to respond directly to the Democratic Center Party, even mentioning former President Álvaro Uribe, noting that between 2005 and 2007 the former leader’s administration had eight rounds of “fruitless” negotiations in Havana with the ELN.

“In those years the ELN kidnapped 236 civilians, according to official statistics, and they didn’t free a single one of them. And nevertheless, for the Uribe administration, it probably never entered their head to demand that the ELN peace delegation be extradited to Colombia to take responsibility for those actions, because they know that would be breaking the rules of the game that permits negotiation,” comment De La Calle and Jaramillo.

Besides that, they say that the decision to break off relations with Cuba would not only risk the diplomacy between the two nations, but also any future negotiations with the ELN.

They added the declarations by the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs that emphasized that if the countries that facilitate peace efforts run the risk of ending up designated as state sponsors of terrorism, in the future they would think twice before committing to those efforts.

They even compare the situation of the United States with Qatar and say that it would be like asking that country to turn over the Taliban that are negotiating in Doha, for the terrorist acts they have committed in Afghanistan. And that, on the contrary, the American government has promised to take them off the black list of terrorist organizations without their ever having signed any peace agreement.

“The problem, at bottom, more than coherence, is privileging ideology and partisan interests over common sense and international commitments. The Duque government prefers to be part of the Trump administration’s ideological program and leave Colombia’s international relations as their least concern. Now that that administration is ending its term attacking its own electoral process and violating its own constitution, it’s time for Colombia to swerve and look for a new and more constructive relationship with the United States,” they declare.

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