long time businessman in Colombia;
Bogota business person and currently the director of a private relief NGO
Note: any "quotes" below are NOT VERBATIM.
serves as a representative of national organization of farmers and businessmen;
served as General Secretary for the Peace Process Commission involved with the ELN;
currently works with NGO administering Plan Colombia funds for social development: NGO is committed to youth, displaced people, and working to eradicate illicit crops in Putumayo.
"Franciso" began by addressing topic of War and Peace. States that business sector firmly believes:
1. in negotiation and dialogue between armed actors;
2. that all violations and transgressions of international law call for the provision of security by the state;
3. that it is impossible to confront the aggressions of the armed actors without an amply supplied army and police force (but they should also be trained in human rights);
4. criterion of simultaneity: moving forward on many fronts at once ("Even as we want peace via dialogue, we need to seek public security against transgressions... This also means that we believe in investing in social goods: women, children, displaced, etc.");
Not all that happens in the business sector is good. Some errors include corruption of political officials.
But the good things include the belief in principles of liberty, democracy, and private property. It is important to protect the rights associated with the marketplace. We must protect ourselves against the forces of subversion.
Colombians don't produce cars or motorcycles; when we want to provide radios and helicopters and arms to the army, we are dependent on international support. ("There are more helicopters in Miami -- where there is no war, than in Colombia.")
Work for peace is very important, and the business sector has been involved in negotiations between government and guerrillas. Along with government and irregular armed actors, the business sector has played an important role in suggesting new ideas. It is the government's role to negotiate, but the business sector plays a supportive role. But the business sector is also accompanying civil society, and sometimes openly disagreeing with the government.
His NGO works to protect the human rights of children, including the little girl recently kidnapped in Colon (in an attempt to persuade her father to resign as mayor).
Steve: Have you been able to provide any help for the displaced families in the Red Cross Building in Bogota?
"Franciso": Some people claim to be displaced to get government subsidies. The Red Cross families asked for land titles in excess of the land that they lost.
Margaret: Can you give some examples of how you have disagreed with the Colombian government, on behalf of civil society?
"Franciso": One example would be the Pastrana government's conducting of the Peace Process.
a. lack of concrete timeline and agenda with the FARC;
b. could have focused on concrete themes like political reform and social development;
c. agenda was ethereal and overly ambitious: 12 major points, each with 5 subpoints (the first of these 60 points took 18 months);
d. Agenda needed to be more practical and not focused on every particular;
e. Peace Process has lacked particularity about what Colombians can expect (Peace is utopian, but a Peace Process is more immediate and concrete);
f. Look at extreme Left, the armed actors: If the guerrillas cannot win by fighting, then they'll try negotiations with the govt. But the Left doesn't really want to engage in a democratic process;
g. On the other hand, the extreme Right (i.e., the paras) feel there is no point to negotiation. They simply want the Left to enter the electoral process and take their chances. They don't believe that other changes should be negotiated;
h. A large sector believes in a middle road -- that some topics are fitting for dialogue, later to be brought to the National Assembly. Other items like liberty and democracy should not be negotiated.
Again, for any of this to happen, there has to be a demobilization. No resolution can come through kidnapping and guns. "Franciso" believes that US government and Uribe believe in this positiion: advancing the Peace Process while insisting on cessation of the hostilities.
Ed: Can you address the relationship between the paras and the business sector?
"Franciso": One couild say that the guerrillas receive their finances via the kidnapping of members of the business sector. And often drug-traffickers -- who were being kidnapped -- were forming the paras for self-protection. At the same time, these groups were extorting people for protection of their lands. So we have a complicated scenario, involving drug traffickers who paid for the paras, and we have people who were extorted by those groups for protection, and we have others making donations. There is an important distinction between individuals in the business sector and the groups who represent them. Business sector officials and organizations cannot be held accountable for the actions of individuals.
Ken : What would be some concrete and practical agenda points for a Peace Process?
1. If Peace Process means "rules of the game," then what reforms can we make in how policies are made and carried out?
2. The abandonment of drug trafficking and re-appropriating those resources and putting them back into development.
3. We need to look at the foundations, regarding how the state is administered, e.g., reform of the atty. general, whether we should have a single house Congress, etc.
4. Agriculture an important issue, in part because the guerrillas have been in agricultural areas. Business sector agrees with guerrillas that there need to be protections for Colombian agriculture.
Recent development within paras very complex. Some paras have entered into kidnapping and extortion. There are some areas where guerrillas had been involved in drugs, and when the paras have taken over these areas, they too have gotten involved in drugs. This form of paramilitarism is distinct from paras who are more ideological and who wish for a more frontal encounter with the guerrillas, and with less collateral damage to civilians. Some think the seeming differences between the paras are a big lie, and others believe it is true.
Mary: How are funds from Plan Colombia used? Where else do the Foundation's funds come from?
"Franciso": This foundation has existed for 15 years. We have resources from international cooperation, but we also raise funds. We have a financial branch, and the interest from our loans go into health programs for children.
In Putumayo we are providing services to campesinos no longer growing coca. We are not involved in fumigation or military operations, but recognize the need for those, including improving respect for human rights.
"Franciso" state he fears being kidnapped "all the time." "I am here thanks to God and Prozac."
Of the Peace Commission on which he served: three have left the country, journalist Jaime Garzon was killed, another "extreme leftist" was killed with 400 bullets.
Steve: Do you believe that you are possibly being used by the USA in a Low Intensity Conflict campaign?
[notes and memory indicate that he hedged on that one.]
"Franciso": "It is impossible to build social fabric when the bullets are flying." Also stated that aerial fumigation is used when voluntary, manual eradication does not work.
"Franciso" to us: Why do you oppose US support to Colombia when without it we are left to endure the paras and the guerrillas? We want to live in a secure peace. [Sorry, I got too involved at this point to take notes. But I recall bringing up the human rights documents which indicate that the idea of a state security function that is independent of and attempting to curtail the abusive armed actors is a myth.] He reasserted that the Colombian Army is keeping an open space for civil society.
[On debriefing, Ryan made the point that "Franciso" represents the majority viewpoint in the cities, except for the poorer barrios.]