Photo: Juan Manuel Santos
Colombia’s FARC guerrillas on Saturday criticized President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration for abruptly reversing its position on the wiretapping of government peace negotiators.
In a statement read to the media in this capital by its chief negotiator in the peace talks, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said it could not accept the conclusion that the intelligence operation was within the bounds of the law.
“No one understands the turnabout by the government, which changed its stance overnight, like a weather vane, in the face of such a serious incident,” Ivan Marquez said.
In his initial reaction to revelations in newsweekly Semana about clandestine eavesdropping targeting the delegates talking peace with the FARC, Santos denounced “dark forces” bent on sabotaging the peace process.
On Tuesday, he ordered a thorough investigation that led within hours to the dismissal of army Gens. Mauricio Ricardo Zuñiga and Oscar Zuluaga.
But barely 24 hours later, Santos said Wednesday the surveillance was “totally legal.”
“They are intelligence operations that are contemplated within the intelligence law and there is nothing irregular about that,” he said during a public event in Bogota.
The president’s about-face jarred with comments Wednesday from Colombia’s army chief, Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez, who said the wiretapping was illegal and insisted the military’s priority was to operate within the law.
Negotiations between the government and the FARC began in Havana in late 2012 and are aimed at ending the longest-running armed conflict in Latin America.
The leader of the FARC delegation in Havana said Wednesday that former President Alvaro Uribe was behind the espionage operation.
“Clearly Alvaro Uribe is behind all this. Don’t forget Alvaro Uribe is public enemy No. 1 of peace in Colombia,” Marquez told reporters in the Cuban capital.
Uribe, a hardliner who governed from 2002 to 2010, vowed during his presidency to defeat the rebels militarily if they did not give up their armed struggle.
He has been a fierce opponent of the peace process and accuses Santos - in frequent, scathing Twitter posts - of squandering eight years of military gains and elevating the FARC’s political stature.