Before you take me for some gun-toting nut, let’s get one thing straight: "Peace", in Colombian political parlance, doesn’t mean what it says in the dictionary. In the context of Colombia’s 45-year old civil war, "Peace" is code for political engagement with the guerrillas on terms that, in the past, FARC has cunningly exploited to regroup, rearm, and relaunch the insurgency.
The word itself has become deeply stigmatized in Colombia – more or less an outright taboo. If you can summarize the Uribe Consensus in a single sentence, it’s this: Peace negotiations only make sense once FARC has been militarily defeated, not before.
Which is why Antanas Mockus recent take-up of the "Peace" mantle is so worrying. Mockus is a smart man and an able politician, for sure. That he’s chosen not to try to compete with Santos on the quién es más macho? stakes makes perfect sense. But the guy needs to be careful: rejecting one upmanship is one thing, signalling to FARC that there’s a way to end the war that doesn’t involve their final defeat is quite another.
Mockus is the most interesting politician I’ve come across in a long time. But his boom has been sudden, the scope of the scrutiny he’s now under is immense, and the possibility that the balloon will come down just as quickly as it has gone up is ever-present. It’d be a real shame if his campaign were to fizzle as Colombians came to worry over their security if they were in his hands.
One thing’s for sure, Santos is ready and waiting: