(By Mary Anastasia O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 25, 2016) — The paradox [features that seem to conflict with one another] of Obama foreign policy is that its compromises with enemies of liberty in the interest of peace are leaving the world more violent, polarized and dangerous. This is especially true in Latin America.
On Oct. 2, Colombia will hold a plebiscite [vote] to ask the nation to approve or reject an Obama-backed agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. The deal gives the FARC amnesty for its war crimes, which include the recruitment of thousands of child soldiers, massacres of villages, political executions, bombings and kidnappings.
Under the agreement, negotiated and signed in Havana, the FARC will also get unelected seats in Congress and special welfare benefits. It will be given dozens of radio stations—so that it can disseminate its propaganda, a privilege no other political party has.
The agreement does not require the FARC to pay any financial reparations to its victims, even though the narco-terrorist kingpins have wealth estimated in the billions. Reparations will be paid by law-abiding citizens via sharp tax increases. The FARC says it will not disarm until it’s good and ready to. Meanwhile it will be given weapons and training to enforce the agreement.
What could possibly go wrong?
Ask Cubans who are enduring the fallout from another Obama legacy project: the 2014 decision to normalize relations with the military dictatorship and increase American economic engagement with the island. Repression in Cuba has since spiked, and Havana has become bolder in its joint activities with dangerous states like North Korea.
Venezuela also is more brutal since Mr. Obama first tried to warm relations with Hugo Chávez in 2009. More recently the State Department has spent months dithering over “dialogue” between the beleaguered opposition and the country’s Cuban-backed military regime, when the U.S. could have been building international pressure for a return to democracy.
Mr. Obama’s support for the Colombia-FARC deal completes his Latin trifecta. In 2009 Colombia was united against the FARC and celebrating its near-defeat on the battlefield led by President Álvaro Uribe.
Now the country is being torn apart by the signed agreement, which is practically a surrender, and by vicious government intimidation tactics designed to silence dissenters and jam the accord down the throats of Colombians. President Juan Manuel Santos is openly buying votes by promising local populations around the country that if they vote “yes” he will direct government funds their way. He may have enough electoral tricks up his sleeve to produce an official declaration of victory. But only a fool would believe that it could produce peace.
Colombians don’t trust Mr. Santos because he has trouble keeping his word, telling the truth and obeying the law. I have observed this firsthand.
I spoke to him by telephone in September 2012, just after media leaks had forced him to admit that he had been negotiating with the FARC in Cuba for almost a year. He had been promising publicly that he would never negotiate until the FARC disarmed.
In our phone conversation he said that any FARC agreement would be put to Colombians in a referendum. A referendum, as defined in Colombia, would have consisted of multiple questions to allow the electorate to reject aspects of the agreement.
But when the president realized that if Colombians were given that power over their own destiny, they would not accept FARC demands, he went back on his word. He announced he would instead hold a plebiscite with only one question for or against the totality of the agreement.
Given his widespread unpopularity, it was unlikely that Mr. Santos’s plebiscite would get the 50% turnout necessary to be valid. So he pulled another trick by getting Colombia’s Congress to lower the turnout threshold to 13%.
The constitutional court, which leans left, allowed all of that. But it also said that the plebiscite question could not be worded in terms of voting for or against peace. Mr. Santos responded by saying that he could ask the question however he pleases.
The agreement is 297 pages and it is not wild speculation to suggest that few Colombians will read it. Instead, they will be asked whether they “support the final agreement to end the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace.” As former Colombian vice minister of justice Rafael Nieto has observed, this wording directly violates the high court’s order. It also avoids mentioning either the hated FARC or the unpopular Santos government. Perhaps most egregiously, it misleads the public about the prospects for peace because dissenters in FARC, its criminal partners in drug running and the other guerrilla group, ELN, will remain active.
The Castro crime family badly wants this deal, which may be the only way to explain why Mr. Obama is putting the U.S. seal of approval on it.