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Hostage negotiation in Columbia and the FARC: Deconstructing the problem

1 February 2009
Central and South America

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Hostage negotiation in Columbia and the FARC: Deconstructing the problem

This paper aims to deconstruct negotiation techniques and agreements in Colombia.  The paper does not deal specifically with any particular hostage crisis event but gives a short introduction to the groups and history of conflict as well as a history of kidnapping, noting a shift from the declarative approach of hostage taking to the more instrumental one, in contrast to the tendency of most of the Islamist terrorist movements. The paper argues that the types of negotiations that exist in Colombia are among the worst possible combinations. Negotiations tend to be multilateral instead of bilateral, always multi-issue, and repeated over and over and again, resulting in the Government never being able to successfully negotiate with the guerrillas, or convince them to stop kidnapping. The author suggests the only positive factor is the presence of mediators and facilitators, because at least until recently, the guerrillas trusted the International Red Cross Organization and emissaries of other countries, although this may be in decline due to the misuse of emblem and transport vehicles.


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