Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bill Richardson to Negotiate with the FARC?

This afternoon I spoke with Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA), who recently returned from a trip to Colombia where he was investigating allegations that some U.S. corporations may be providing support for right-wing paramilitary groups -- as Cincinnati-based Chiquita was found to be doing last year. Asked whether he found anything implicating other U.S. companies, he told me: "I really don’t want to disclose that at this point in time, but yes, it was very productive, it was significant."

Delahunt has also been involved in trying to mediate a solution to the FARC hostage situation in Colombia, something I covered back in December for IPS. The FARC are said to be holding upwards of 700 people hostage, including three U.S. military contractors. A number of people have suggested that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter or New Mexico Governor (and former U.N. ambassador) Bill Richardson could play a role negotiating with the FARC.

Asked about either as a possibility, Delahunt told me: "[Bill Richardson] gave a call to [Congressman] Jim McGovern (D-MA), [and] it’s my understanding that he wants to get involved."

Richardson's involvement has the potential to be a breakthrough, as the Uribe government in Colombia certainly isn't interested in having Hugo Chavez renew his role in negotiations (after being fired in November). The FARC would also like to have a high-profile American to negotiate with, and Richardson would likely have more freedom to do so as he wouldn't be as restricted as a member of the Bush administration or a sitting U.S. Congressman might be.

I'll have more on this story and the upcoming Colombian Free Trade Agreement next week.

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