Colombian rebel group the FARC denied writing a statement supporting the government's proposed peace legislation, suggesting that the bill's critics might have fabricated the rebels' support in order to stir opposition.
A statement published on June 1 on the Radio Cafe Stereo website, purporting to be from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), said:
To the enemies of the people who always believed that [as guerrillas] we would never submit ourselves to the surrender of arms and demobilization, this is the opportunity to tell you that, with the Legal Framework for Peace (Marco para La Paz), we see an open window for it to occur.
The FARC gives its approval to the Framework for Peace bill currently in Congress and we recognize it as the fundamental tool for the discussion of an agenda that will solve the political, economic and social problems ... of the country.
The statement also named President Juan Manuel Santos as having the "keys to peace," suggesting that together, the government and the guerrillas could work towards "a political solution to the conflict."
The Legal Framework for Peace has passed seven of the required eight debating sessions in Colombia's Senate and is designed to allow Colombia's government room for manouvre in any future peace negotiations. This could involve offering lenient sentences and legal benefits to demobilized guerrillas. The bill has been met with criticism both domestically and internationally, with critics saying it offers impunity to criminals and could allow them to hold political office.
On Sunday, however, another statement posted on the website, again attributed to the FARC's ruling Secretariat, denied that the rebel group was behind the original post, stating, "It's clear that the real authors of these papers are seeking to create confusion in public opinion." The website confirmed Saturday that it had been hacked, adding that the access codes were changed to stop them quickly fixing the problem.
The letter was met with skepticism by many. Former Senator Pieded Cordoba, who has been a mediator in recent FARC hostage releases, said it was "apocryphal," while Senator Roy Barreras cautioned against believing the post, reported EFE.
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After learning the statement was false, Santos Tweeted on Saturday, "The obvious question: who is trying to achieve what with this?"
One group that could stand to gain from showing the FARC as supporters of the Legal Framework for Peace are opponents of the move. Right-wing Colombian politicians, such as former President Alvaro Uribe, have been outspoken in their anger at the Santos administration's willingness to offer the FARC legal benefits in order to facilitate peace talks. If opponents could portray the FARC as being in favor of the constitutional amendment, this could stoke public opposition to the bill.
Friday's website post came soon after the FARC's release of French journalist Romeo Langlois last week, which the rebels used as an opportunity to portray themselves as working for peace, but this latest message goes much further. Offering to demobilize stands in contrast to the defiant tone of an open letter to Santos from FARC commander-in-chief Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, alias "Timochenko," at the beginning of this year.
Another possibility, as columnist Jorge Gomez Pinilla points out, is that the hack was carried out by a dissident within the FARC's ranks seeking to facilitate peace talks. However, this seems improbable, given that such a move would be extremely unlikely to bring about negotiations.
The Framework for Peace enters its final debate in Congress on Monday. If approved it will be sent to the president for final approval.