A good place to start is a 1963 article by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm, who traced the roots of social violence in Colombia back to the 1920s. As a Marxist, Hobsbawm fervently desired revolution in the western hemisphere, but he believed it needed to take root in Colombia - ‘a country which can make a decisive difference to the future of Latin America’ – rather than Castro’s Cuba, under communist rule since 1959.
As a Caribbean island close to the United States, and with an ‘adventurist’ policy of supporting rebel movements around the region, Cuba could never be the launch pad for Latin American revolution, Hobsbawm believed. He correctly predicted that revolutionary forces were about to erupt in Colombia - the next year saw the start of the FARC rebellion. You can read about Hobsbawm, and see an excerpt of his article, here.
Fast forward to 2010 and tone of coverage was more optimistic: a new era was in sight. The drug cartels were moving northwards – Colombia’s gain but Mexico’s tragedy - and relentless military pressure by President Uribe was weakening the power of the FARC guerrillas. Uribe’s successor, Juan Manuel Santos, told The World Today in 2012: ‘Our military success in the confrontation with the FARC guerrillas has forced them to leave zones where they had been entrenched… In response, our strategy is now less military and more police-like’.
In fact, it would take a huge mobilization of civil society, and promises to address the claims of millions of people displaced, to build a coalition for peace. Norway is one of two facilitators of the peace process (the other is Cuba). Here in December last year, Manuel Aguirre, Director of the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, explains the four-year path to a ceasefire. In his latest contribution, Aguirre looks at the huge challenge of implementing the peace agreement. Not least of the obstacles is ex-president Uribe’s passionate opposition to his successor’s peace-making.
Looking back, Hobsbawm was wrong to see Colombia as the cradle of a pan-Latin American revolution. That never happened. But he was spot on in identifying Colombia as a country which could make a ‘decisive difference’ - by showing how to resolve the most intractable conflicts peacefully.