The similarities between the U.S. conflict with Cuba and that between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are enormous. They come from the same place, and it seems that they will have the same outcome.
Without the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the continent would not have filled with guerillas, and without the process of talks taking place in Havana at the moment, these conflicts will not end. They are both old conflicts, the Cuban conflict being 55 years old and the Colombian, 50, and they are outdated as well, being part of a Cold War that ended 25 years ago.
Even though the FARC is the daughter of the Cuban revolutionary myth, Fidel Castro did not have much sway with them. His relationship with Tirofijo was poor because he would not submit to Castro’s authority. Tirofijo did not allow Che Guevara to enter Colombia, which is said to have been Castro’s plan and which is why Fidel has supported recent Colombian governments in the quest for peace, insisting that the guerrilla conflict lost its purpose decades ago. The change came with Timoshenko, who spent some time in Cuba, and Hugo Chavez’s influence.
The way in which the conflicts are the most similar is their outcomes: they are monuments to failure. Both are an embarrassment to ten American and eleven Colombian administrations, especially those of Kennedy and Valencia who escalated them to absurd levels with clumsy military and political extremism: the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the assassination attempts against Fidel Castro and the bombardment of Marquetalia and El Pato, on the part of some paltry, liberal guerrillas.
The conflicts have dealt serious blows to the Cuban government and the FARC, but have not succeeded in defeating them, such that they have engendered a hubris of historic proportions in the Castros and the FARC: They reason that they have militarily, politically and economically survived the onslaught of the world’s number one power, which makes them the winners.
What Barack Obama and Juan Manuel Santos understood, in contrast with their more primitive predecessors, is that the Cuban government and the FARC know that they can carry on indefinitely, but that they are ready to move on from their failed models and reintegrate themselves into the world, under one condition: Recognition. Recognition that their struggle was based on ideological foundations; that, in fighting against them, crimes as terrible as theirs were committed; and that some of the changes that they demand be accepted. Santos and Obama also know that, weary, the Castros and the FARC are ready to risk the end of the conflict changing them so much that they might disappear, but with dignity.
Obama knows that what might destroy Castroism is slowly pushing Cuba to globalize. Similarly, Santos knows that the strategy in Havana is not to punish the FARC but to destroy them and that this will not be accomplished by putting them in jail but rather by leading them to democracy. He knows that what needs to be done is to eradicate their posture against the system, so that this very system takes on the task of assimilating them.
The secret lies in mutual concessions, as it is necessary to acknowledge them to succeed in defeating them. The moment to replace hatred with pragmatism has come. What needs to be done away with is the conflict, not the Castros or the FARC.