An agreement may be reached between the Colombian Government and the (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) by next month or possibly even earlier. Furthermore, President Manuel Santos of Colombia recently received a pledge of $450 million from President Obama to help with the peace process and its implementation.

This Administration has been consistently optimistic about the peace process and along with many Colombians has wished for an end to the conflict that has caused so much death, pain and terror for Colombia’s people. That peace process is also consistent with the philosophy of an Administration that has tremendous faith in the ability of diplomacy and good will to make peace even with the most bitter and vicious enemy.

The big question is whether or not peace with the FARC is really possible given their history of drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion and kidnapping or whether it is just wishful thinking. It could be that by giving too much leeway to the FARC now, will only make matters worse for the Colombian people in the long run.

Peace agreements with terrorist or guerilla groups have had mixed results. In some cases these groups have found a way of channeling their demands through the formation of political parties (e.g. the M-19 in Colombia, the Tupamaros in Uruguay, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador and others). In other cases peace agreements or truces have been consistently violated (Hamas reconciliation agreements with the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah agreements with the United Nations in the aftermath of the Lebanese war and other cases).

We fully understand that the Colombian people want to give peace a chance and this is why they elected Santos.

Yet, the parameters of the agreement with the FARC carry some serious risks as we pointed out in a previous article.

Yet, the most important thing is to minimize the risks in such negotiations in order to leave less leeway for the FARC to play a double endgame.

For example, according to a recent report one of the leaders of the FARC holds multi-million dollar properties in Costa Rica. This has raised questions about what will happen to the guerrilla group’s finances after it demobilizes. According to prosecutors in Costa Rica, the FARC is believed to have assets in the country, presumably the result of money laundering from drug trafficking, extortion and other illegal activities.

Although the Colombian government announced it will seize more than $20 million from the FARC after the peace agreement is signed, this is mostly money believed to be in Colombia. However, it is believed that the FARC has way more money than that in accounts throughout the world.

Former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Noriega suggested in a recent article that the U.S. through the Treasury Dept. should seize assets of the FARC leaders and not allow them to use our financial system. By the same token, Noriega suggests that the State Department should not remove the FARC from the state sponsor of terrorism list until it is clear they have ended their terror tactics as well as insisting on extradition of FARC kingpins to the U.S.

We believe that this is a crucial role the U.S. can and should play.

Moreover, there is another problem that needs to be taken seriously. The FARC has acted throughout the years with sub-contractors in the criminal world.

Marco Millan from the Naval Academy observes that past experiences in El Salvador, Guatemala and even in Colombia, itself, teaches us that terrorist organizations operate in association with criminal or terrorist sub-contractors. These sub-groups may not necessarily feel bound by the agreements and thus they may continue the violence. The criminal gangs that emerge from associations with terrorist or paramilitary groups may well continue to be involved in activities such as drug trafficking or extortion. The FARC has worked with many such groups as a result of the need to either secure financial resources or carry out terrorist attacks. The peace agreement does not secure the disbandment of these sub-groups and thus it is possible that the FARC will continue their operations while using these groups as a cover. Another likely scenario is that their continued operations will hold the government responsible for signing a bad deal and eventually will weaken the government. A typical example of that is the continuous terrorist attacks by Hamas after Oslo. The PLO refused to take responsibility and the Israeli population turned against the government. The Labor Party that initiated the peace process lost the election as the Israeli population faced waves of violence.

It is not clear whether any of the above or any conditions that Santos should impose on the FARC were brought up by the U.S. envoy to the talks, Bernard Aronson. All we know is that Mr. Aronson seemed pleased with what he described as his most important contribution to the talks which is that he treated the FARC negotiators with respect. Aronson expected to crack “the stereotype of the arrogant imperialist”. Hopefully, there was more of substance to American participation in the negotiations than simply trying to convince the murderous, drug trafficking FARC leaders that we respect them and that we are no longer the “Bad Guys”.

We cannot be apologetic or worry about the manipulation of the past against us at a time when our national security is at stake. The future of the FARC, drug trafficking activities, and other criminal and terrorist associations is as much a Colombian problem as it is an American problem. Drug trafficking cannot function without the “American market” and its accomplices. Terrorist activities are usually directed against our allies, not against our enemies. Expansion of anarchy and violence in our vicinity will affect us. The Western Hemisphere is the neighborhood where we live.

It is our hope that our leaders are providing the Colombian government with all the right advice. Peace may deserve a chance but “distrust, verify and imagine the worst case scenarios” must be guiding principles. At this critical juncture, optimism and celebration are well too premature.

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