The ex-president of Colombia and former Secretary of Unasur, Ernesto Samper, considers that militarizing the area is not enough to combat the criminal organizations that operate on the border between that country and Ecuador.
The ex-president pronounces itself on the crisis of security that affects Ecuador and Colombia in Esmeraldas and Tumaco, respectively.
Has peace failed in Colombia?
No, the groups that act in dissent of the peace process do not represent more than 5% of the former FARC combatants, who reached 15,000 members very recently. They delivered around 1.8 weapons for each combatant. These defector groups are dedicated to opening channels to maintain drug trafficking corridors and this must be understood. They are groups that must be fought with all the energy to the extent that they could represent the possibility of a resurrection of the armed conflict in Colombia, which of course would also affect the borders.
Well it is true that in all peace processes there are always dissident groups, what did the Colombian State do to include the largest number of members of the FARC?
Armed violence is trying to metastasize in four areas of the country: El Catatumbo, Chocó, Arauca and the area of Tumaco. Those who act there are criminal gangs and the State has ordered the transfer of a large number of members of the Armed Forces, accompanied by people trying to develop a series of alternative programs for the social substitution of crops. All this considering that Tumaco has 16% of the country’s illicit crops, which forces us to make greater efforts.
Has not including the issue of drug trafficking in the peace dialogues been a mistake?
Of course it was included, in what has to do with the armed struggle that was the protection that the FARC was offering to the owners of the crops and they were in some way promoting the illicit crops in the zone of the conflict. The drug trafficking is still assumed as a state policy, at the combat level of criminal organizations, but in what had to do with the FARC the agreements that were made were for the voluntary replacement of 150,000 hectares, on which they depend for their subsistence more than 300,000 people.
What role does the United States play on the border crisis? Is American military aid necessary and under what conditions?
I believe, after 50 years of conflict and fight against drug trafficking, that the Armed Forces of Colombia have signed agreements with more than 20 policemen of the world. I believe that working together with Ecuador, with binational operations, is the most effective response. I do not see necessary, neither in cash nor in intelligence, operatives other than binationals.
How to understand the detention of a member of the FARC secretariat at the request of the US? Are the agreements at risk?
The guilt of Mr. Jesus Santrich is still not proven because he is protected by the presumption of innocence that every citizen has. This can strengthen all the agreements that clearly established that if a person violated the law after the date on which the agreements were signed, they would not be considered as crimes specific to the armed conflict, but as crimes of the ordinary courts.
Is the solution to the conflict at the border military?
In those areas there are people who feel a border nationality, there is no dividing line for them. To attack drug trafficking, joint action is needed; not just a military response. Intelligence groups and police are needed from side to side to prevent criminal organizations from using the border differences to cross as they feel threatened.
Are there chances that violence will return forcefully to Colombia and even reach Ecuador?
President Lenin Moreno is exercising his right and obligation to preserve order in Ecuador, which is what Colombia must do. I believe that any dissuasive action that is attempted at the border is not only valid but necessary, but must be complemented with persuasive actions that protect the civilian population so that it is not caught in the middle of the conflict. This is the case of the journalistic team that was miserably murdered and the fate of the couple of kidnapped youths. Not only military actions are needed, but intelligence, protection as mandated by international humanitarian law.
How do you evaluate that Ecuador is no longer guarantor of the peace process with ELN until they suspend the “terrorist actions”?
I deeply respect the reasons that President Lenin Moreno had for suspending the negotiating table in Quito and the role that country was playing as a guarantor. It would be very important to reconsider this decision, because the ELN is currently in a peace process that is negotiating a cease. (I)