Reports surfaced last week alleging that the Colombian Army was working alongside civilian hackers to spy on the government’s Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) peace negotiators. In what sounds like an episode of Homeland, the army is accused of intercepting FARC communications from offices disguised as a restaurant and computer lab. Known as “Andromeda,” the building that housed these offices was only recently shut down after having been operational for over a year.
The reaction from Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has been schizophrenic. Initially, he denounced the eavesdroppers as saboteurs of the peace process. The following day, he launched an investigation that led to the prompt dismissal of two army generals, including the head of army intelligence. Yet, less than 24 hours later, he declared that the surveillance was “totally legal.”
FARC rebels accuse Santos’s predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, of masterminding the spying operation.
Many have been left bewildered by Santos’s recent actions and continue to question his judgment. As the former minister of defense to hardliner Uribe, Santos shocked Colombians when he agreed to negotiate rather than militarily defeat the terrorist and drug trafficking organizations.
Since November 2012, FARC and Colombian government delegations have been negotiating in secret in Havana. On the agenda are six major points: political participation, illicit drugs, disarmament, land reform, peace deal implementation, and victims’ rights. The FARC is also demanding a constitutional convention to rewrite the 1991 constitution.
Strangely enough, President Obama is supporting the peace talks. In Santos’s recent visit to the White House, Obama congratulated him “on his bold and brave efforts to bring about a lasting and just peace inside of Colombia in his negotiations with the FARC.”
Santos’s evolution from Plan Colombia–era Defense Minister to an appeaser of the FARC has become a divisive issue leading up the 2014 presidential elections. His predecessor Uribe launches daily attacks in the media against Santos, accusing him of squandering eight years of military gains made by Colombia in close collaboration with the U.S.
These military gains directly resulted in security improvements that paved the way for unprecedented economic growth rates. Improvements in these areas directly contributed to a more than doubling of foreign direct investment (FDI), from $6.5 billion in 2006 to over $14 billion in 2011.
While the future of the peace negotiations remains to be seen, the Colombian military’s lack of confidence in their president should be an alarming wake-up call to the Obama Administration.