A series of crucial concerns emerge in the face of the surprising authorization that President Alavaro Uribe gave the progressive Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba to be facilitator in the mediation effort of President Hugo Chavez to reach a humanitarian accord that seeks the liberation of 45 kidnap victims of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). It is important to note that Senator Piedad Cordoba is one of Colombia’s bravest and most honorable opposition figures who recently demanded the resignation of Uribe for his increasingly worrying ties to the Mafioso paramilitaries, who are nothing more than hired assassins and mercenaries for dirty warfare.
With this political ploy, President Uribe converts one of his principal political enemies into an “ally” and thereby neutralizes her important denunciations during a month of regional elections.
President Uribe authorized a situation that transforms President Chavez from uncomfortable neighbor (although quite useful for the Colombian economy) into leader for peace. However, this prestigious role of leader for peace does not seem to be destined to go far. Uribe gives Chavez a ministry without portfolio; practically a mission impossible. He says he wants the humanitarian accord and posits two unshakeable preconditions that leave President Chavez with his hands tied: no demilitarization of the municipalities of Florida and Pradera and no permission for liberated FARC fighters to re-join the armed struggle.
This way Uribe appears to be the great winner of the match. He neutralizes his prestigious enemy, obtains the pardon of the paramilitaries that were arrested in Venezuela in 2004, and at the same time strengthens his weak image within Colombia by appearing together with Chavez, who is admired and liked by increasing sectors of the Colombian population.
In this way he also improves his image with respect to Europe by projecting a political will to find an exit to the humanitarian drama of the kidnap victims, among which is the former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who also has French citizenship and whose liberation is one of the principal diplomatic objectives of the new French President, Sarkozy. In addition, Uribe looks good to the U.S. government because he continues to follow his hard-line policies.
Parallel to this, the situation places Chavez in a conflict of interest with the FARC guerilla and could lead to a new manipulation that tries to mediatically associate Venezuela and its revolution with terrorism.
Despite this discouraging panorama about the possibilities of success for Chavez in this chess game, President Chavez has the vision, moral authority, and persuasive capacity to open spaces in the debate in favor of a humanitarian accord that is seen as a step towards peace. However, the main challenge is to transcend the immediate situation of the humanitarian accord and to help Colombia re-pose the issue of peace in a radical way, that is, in the sense of going to the roots of the violence.Translated by Gregory Wilpert