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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: An Enduring Peace in Colombia?
Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel on the perils, pitfalls and promise of Colombia's new peace treaty with the FARC.

By Beatrice E. Rangel

President Juan Manuel Santos' persistence and faith in the development promise of peace has finally succeeded in getting FARC to engage in the signature of a Peace treaty.

For anyone that has followed Colombian history, peace is a fundamental input to attain development. Indeed, only peace can guarantee the integration of a geographically parceled territory through economic forces so as to allow Colombia to fully exploit its geopolitical advantage of being like Mexico, a significant market with shores on both the Atlantic as well as the Pacific Oceans.

And should the peace treaties contemplate a well thought-out execution roadmap that includes among other things arrangements to oversee compliance, funding to integrate displaced peasants and demobilized combatants, and instances for the international community to effectively participate, their arrival into our shaken hemisphere should receive a warm welcome.

Unfortunately for the peace treaties, the peaceful and law abiding citizens of Colombia, and the hemispheric community that would like to support Colombia's development, there is Venezuela next door.

Venezuela is today all but a rogue state ruled by a gang that has no regard for democracy or human rights while enthusiastically supporting all kinds of illicit activities.

First and utmost among those activities is drug trafficking. Should you be one of those analysts that has gone through the so called "Reyes papers' which are copies of e-mails and other documentation belonging to the now deceased FARC chief, you would shiver at the thought of what a strong hand Venezuela can play in this drama and turn the peace treaties into a successful takeover plan.

Reyes died in a military operation by the Colombian Army under the command of the then Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos. Reyes, who's real name was Luis Edgar Devia Silva, was entrusted by FARC's General Command with the task of developing the drug business.

And Reyes delivered!! According to well-informed sources "Reyes was accused by the US Department of State and the Colombian government of expanding FARC's cocaine trafficking activities and setting related policies, including the production, manufacture, and distribution of hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States and other countries.

He was accused of promoting the "taxation" of the illegal drug trade in Colombia to raise funds for the FARC, as well as participating in the murder of hundreds of people who violated or interfered with the FARC's cocaine-related policies."

Reyes' tenure as FARC chief has been regarded as an astounding economic success for his group. So much so that in 1999, Reyes met with Richard Grasso, then chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. The meeting, held in the middle of nowhere, discussed investment opportunities for FARC.

As President Chavez consolidated his exclusionary regime in Venezuela, he decided to enter into a dual purpose alliance with FARC.

First, by supporting FARC, he would weaken his political nemesis, President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe.

Second, the Bolivarian regime could expand into Colombia once the local oligarchy would be defeated. A major flaw to this strategy was disregarded. It was not possible to offer FARC a sanctuary in Venezuela without bringing their means of living to the country. So Venezuela entered the drug trade as the super delivery highway.

Up and until that moment Venezuela had been a transshipment territory for drugs produced in Colombia, Peru or Bolivia. After FARC became Venezuelan government allies, the country turned into the most expeditious express way for drugs seeking overseas markets particularly those of the U.S. and Europe.

Needless to say, recent developments tend to demonstrate that Reyes' economic machine is alive and at full speed.

To be sure, several members of the Venezuelan Armed Forces (Carvajal, Reverol, Fortoul, etc.) have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for their participation in the drug trade.

Even two nephews of the First Lady of Venezuela are being tried in New York for conspiring to bring cocaine to the United States.

This drug related machinery will continue to operate while Venezuela endures its free fall into collapse. This situation will allow FARC to rely in one of the most powerful economic machines of this century to finance its way to power in Colombia. Once obtained, the script to dismantle democracy has already been created and perfected by the master strategist of America, one Hugo Chavez Frias.

Consequently, the Peace Treaties are but the very preliminary stage to economic integration and political development in Colombia. They need to be immediately followed by a resolution of the Venezuelan conundrum.

Should this second step fail to materialize, both countries would be on their way to rejoin again into one integrated nation. It is too sad this time the uniting factor will not be a world class leader like Simon Bolivar but a white powder called cocaine.

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.

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