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History, Pastrana’s Presidency

FARC, judicial reform, president of Colombia, warring factions, demilitarized zone

Prospects of a peaceful settlement to the protracted violence appeared to improve in June 1998 with the election of Conservative Party candidate Andres Pastrana as president of Colombia. Pastrana campaigned largely on a pledge to open formal peace negotiations among the warring factions. Following the election, the FARC, the ELN, and the United Self-Defense Units of Colombia, a leading right-wing paramilitary organization, all announced their willingness to engage in peace talks with the new government. In July President-elect Pastrana announced that he had met secretly with FARC leader Manuel Marulanda Velez, and that he had agreed to temporarily demilitarize five municipalities in southern Colombia to encourage negotiations with the guerrillas.

Government negotiations with the FARC stalled pending complete demilitarization in the southern municipalities. Meanwhile, guerrilla and paramilitary violence continued. Talks between the Pastrana government and the FARC officially opened in January 1999. However, allegations soon emerged that the FARC was using the demilitarized region for recruiting and training activities, and public support for the talks waned. The peace talks proceeded slowly, halted on several occasions by the FARC. The negotiations resumed in February 2001 with an agreement to allow international monitors to investigate abuses allegedly committed by the FARC in the demilitarized zone. However, the talks collapsed again in February 2002 amid escalating violence and with little having been achieved.

Despite the lack of progress toward a peace settlement, Colombia’s relations with the United States improved under the Pastrana administration, especially regarding the war on drugs. The United States continued to certify Colombia’s efforts to combat drug trafficking and committed new aid for the country, including funds for the military, judicial reform, and human rights education.

Article key phrases:

FARC, judicial reform, president of Colombia, warring factions, demilitarized zone, human rights education, peace talks, peace settlement, guerrillas, ELN, guerrilla, drug trafficking, training activities, pledge, public support, Prospects, new government, abuses, municipalities, allegations, occasions, willingness, military, lack of progress, funds, agreement, United States, country


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