- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2010

Colombia’s largest insurgent group asked the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to help resolve the country’s decades-old political struggle in a open letter published Wednesday.

“Although the government of Colombia has closed the door to dialogue with the insurgency spurred on by the mirage of a military victory and Washington’s interference, we want to convey to the Union of Nations of the South, UNASUR, our unyielding determination to seek a political solution to the conflict,” said the letter from the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), published in the left-wing New Colombia News Agency (ANNCOL).

The letter, signed by the Secretariat of the General Staff of the FARC, proposed a special UNASUR meeting where the group could present “our vision of the Colombian conflict.”

“Peace with social justice, not war for war, has been the strategic goal of the FARC since its inception in 1964,” it said, claiming that previous peace talks with the government — held from 1999 to 2002 — had failed “because the oligarchs would not consider any change in the unjust political, economic and social structures that motivate the uprising.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who took office earlier this month, has said that his government would continue the fight against the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN). He demanded that they release all hostages, cease terrorist acts, and stop recruiting children, though he pointedly declined to rule out negotiations with the rebels, saying that “the door to dialogue is not locked.”

Under his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, the FARC and ELN were badly weakened, their combined ranks reduced from over 20,000 in 2002 to roughly 10,00 today, according to most estimates. After being driven out of the Switzerland-sized zone where the government had given the FARC de-facto authority during the three-year peace process, the guerillas have largely been relegated to the jungles that straddle the 1,375-mile border with Venezuela.

The rebels are suspected to have been behind a car bomb that went off in Bogota on August 12 — the first of its kind since January 2009.

The ANNCOL letter is the FARC’s second official plea for a political resolution in a month. The group’s main leader, Alfonso Cano, released a video July 30 inviting President-elect Santos to reopen talks. In March 2008, when Mr. Santos was defense minister, Colombia killed FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes during a controversial airstrike on one of the group’s hideouts in Ecuador.