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How will the FARC-Colombia peace talks impact Latin America?

Ridding Latin America of the FARC could mean a better business climate, reduced tensions between Colombia and its neighbors, and space for the rise of a new left in Colombia.

By Staff Writer / November 18, 2012

Dutch rebel Tanja Nijmeijer from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia speaks during a press conference with a fellow member of the FARC negotiating team, Ivan Marquez (c. right) and Jesus Santrich (second from right) at the headquarters of the Cuban agency Prensa Latina in Havana last Tuesday.

Jorge Pérez/Prensa Latina/AP

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If the Colombian government succeeds in reaching a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), it will put to an end one of the longest standing armed conflicts in the world.

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Successful talks, the second round of which are set to kick off tomorrow in Havana, would have huge implications for Colombia, which has suffered nearly a half century of civil strife, and be a clear boon to the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. But it would also have wide-reaching consequences for the region as a whole economically, politically, and even in terms of security.

Any agreement would be complicated, and not immediate. But ridding Latin America of the FARC could mean a much better business climate, not just in rural Colombia where the FARC have their stronghold but for the region overall. It could reduce tensions between Colombia and its neighbors, Venezuela and Ecuador. And it could allow a new left to rise in Colombia, which would bolster the trend across the region. Could it even have an impact on crime levels in Mexico and Central America? Some say yes.

“You would be ending the last internal armed conflict in the region,” says Adam Isacson, a leading expert on security in Colombia at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “That changes the entire climate of how the region is perceived.”

Rallying around Colombia

Latin America has rallied around Colombia as it sets out to reach peace with the FARC, a Marxist rebel group that emerged in 1964. The FARC, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, has waged war for nearly five decades against the state. Later, their fight also targeted fierce paramilitaries that rose to counter the FARC but who are equally responsible for putting civilians in the middle of crossfire. The FARC have been accused of everything from bombings in Bogotá and other cities to high-level kidnappings, including US citizens.

Amid the violence on all sides, tens of thousands have been killed, and some 4 million people have been displaced.

The FARC’s operational strength was dramatically weakened under former hard-line President Ávaro Uribe. Mr. Santos, who served as Mr. Uribe's defense minister and assumed office in 2010, put the idea of ending the conflict at the center of his agenda. This is not the first time peace has been tried in Colombia: Talks have broken down three times before, most recently a decade ago.

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