Call to Rearm Threatens Colombia’s Peace Process
A FARC faction goes back to war, an Iranian rocket fails to launch, and other stories we’re following today.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: A former FARC commander in Colombia returns to the fight, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson deals with the backlash to his move to suspend Parliament, and an Iranian launch vehicle explodes before takeoff.
We’re taking a break Monday for Labor Day. Audrey Wilson, Foreign Policy’s newsletter editor, will be back in the saddle Tuesday. We welcome your feedback at email@example.com.
Farewell to Farewell to Arms
Three years after it first went into force, the already tenuous peace deal between Bogotá and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is facing its greatest threat yet. On Thursday, a top former guerrilla leader—Luciano Marín, who goes by Iván Márquez—appeared in a video, flanked by other influential former rebel figures, accusing the government of betraying the peace accord and calling for a return to war.
It is not yet clear how many of the 7,000 or so demobilized fighters are likely to heed his call, or how many already active dissidents he will be able to recruit and unify.
The peace agreement was meant to bring an end to a half-century of armed conflict that left more than 200,000 people dead. Smaller guerrilla groups, most notably the National Liberation Army (ELN), still remain active, and the FARC’s demobilization sparked a spike in violence as some fought to take control of formerly FARC-held territory.
What does this mean for the peace agreement? In the years since the peace accord took effect, both sides have struggled to uphold their ends of the bargain. The government committed to keeping former fighters safe, but more than a hundred have been killed since the deal was signed, along with hundreds of local activists, while planned development projects in rural areas have stalled. Meanwhile, thousands of FARC fighters have returned to the jungle and the drug trade that has long sustained their movement.
“Support for Colombia’s peace deal seems to be eroding on all sides,” Francisco Serrano wrote in Foreign Policy last month. “Renewed violence, a charged political environment, and the inherent difficulties of implementing parts of the plan have taken a toll.”
What will Duque do? Political change in Colombia has also played a role: Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez is far more skeptical of the deal than was former President Juan Manuel Santos, who signed it and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Duque has vowed to hunt down the fighters in the video.
Rodrigo Londoño, the former head of FARC and an architect of the peace deal, said most former guerrillas remained committed to peace. “Even if the government does not fully agree with the current peace deal, it should take steps to ensure its implementation,” Serrano wrote in FP. “If it fails to do so, Colombia risks being dragged back into the past instead of moving toward the future.”
What We’re Following Today
Boris Johnson is pushing for an eleventh-hour Brexit deal. Britain is still reeling in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament in an apparent effort to limit legislators’ room to maneuver in the run-up to the Oct. 31 deadline for Britain’s exit from the European Union.
On Friday morning, John Major, the former Conservative prime minister, sought to join a legal challenge brought by the anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller at the High Court in London. Two other court hearings challenging the prime minister’s move are taking place in Edinburgh and Belfast. In response to the backlash, Johnson has promised to redouble efforts to seek a last-minute deal with Brussels.
But the EU does not necessarily intend to budge. “No-deal is not in its economic or political interest, but it is preferable to abandoning its key principles,” Helene von Bismarck argues in FP. “The reason why the rest of the EU has held firm on the main point of contention, the Irish border, is not that it is comfortable that a no-deal Brexit could never happen,” she adds. “It is their resolve that the integrity of the single market and solidarity with Ireland must be paramount.”
Netanyahu’s electoral calculus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the leader of the small Zehut Party, Moshe Feiglin, a cabinet post in exchange for dropping out of the race. Zehut, which ran primarily on the issue of medical marijuana legalization, was polling below the electoral threshold and risked being shut out of the Knesset. If the party’s voters now cast their ballots for Netanyahu’s Likud Party, it could help Likud gain an extra seat. Netanyahu, who has been lagging in polls for the Sept. 17 election, might make a similar offer to the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, which includes followers of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane and the Kahanist group Kach, which was declared a terrorist organization by the Israeli and U.S. governments during the 1990s.
Iran’s failure to launch. Tehran has devoted considerable efforts this year to botched attempts to reach outer space. Rockets sent up in January and February did not make it into orbit, and a launch vehicle slated for a new attempt “blew up on the launch pad” on Thursday, Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies who reviewed satellite images of the site, told NPR.
South Korea’s Park faces retrial. South Korea’s highest court ordered a new trial for former President Park Geun-hye, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence after her conviction last year on bribery and abuse of power charges. The court ruled that each bribery count should have resulted in a separate verdict rather than being wrapped into a single one. Park’s 10-month trial shone a light on shady dealings at the highest levels of South Korean business and politics.
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Keep an Eye On
Hong Kong activists arrested. In Hong Kong, authorities detained three leading protest movement figures: Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests that laid the groundwork for today’s pro-democracy unrest, and Andy Chan, who was the leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, which is currently banned. The move was likely related to plans to protest the five-year anniversary of China’s decision to increase its involvement in Hong Kong’s elections, the New York Times reports.
Migrants face mumps. Some 900 immigrants held in U.S. detention facilities have contracted mumps, a contagious viral disease, over the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the United States, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees are 4,000 times more likely to get mumps than someone not in detention, Marc Stern, an affiliate assistant professor in public health at the University of Washington, told Buzzfeed News.
Hurricane Dorian. A hurricane is heading toward Florida’s east coast, where it is expected to make landfall on Monday morning as a Category 4 storm unless conditions change. Residents of the state are stocking up on emergency supplies and preparing to potentially evacuate. So far, the storm has caused power outages and flooding in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra.
Odds and Ends
Amazon owns Alexa. Amazon’s Echo, a voice-controlled speaker that listens to and records you in your home and responds to the name Alexa, appears to be crowding out other uses of that name. Last year, the number of children in Britain to receive the name Alexa dropped by more than 50 percent, Reuters reports.
Morbid marsupials. Male Kalutas, marsupials the size of mice found in Northwestern Australia, expire after they mate.“We found that males only mate during one highly synchronized breeding season and then they all die,” Genevieve Hayes, a vertebrate ecologist and the lead author of a new Journal of Zoology study on sex and death among Kalutas, told the New York Times.
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