Colombia's Bold Gamble for Peace

by Brian Michael Jenkins


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Colombia's recent rash of kidnappings and terrorism has given rise to government efforts to put an end to the guerrilla warfare and political violence that have plagued the country for twenty years. To this end, in 1982 the government passed a law granting unconditional amnesty for all acts of rebellion and all crimes connected with the rebellion and later negotiated ceasefires with most of the guerrilla groups. While the amnesty and ceasefire negotiations provoked some divisions within guerrilla ranks, the level of violence increased, as did the number of kidnappings in 1983 and 1984. The government's single-minded pursuit of peace, driven largely by President Belisario Betancur, has provided the guerrillas with time to rest, recruit, and rearm, and has, to some extent, legitimized their activities and recognized the political content of their struggle. They are riding a wave of popularity but will have to concern themselves with staying in the headlines without using violence. The likely outcome is that some guerrillas will quit, leaving the most ruthless extremists, who may escalate the political violence.

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