Colombia: FARC will propose ceasefire as negotiations begin
Critics of the FARC point out that in past peace talks the rebel group used concessions like this one to become stronger.
By MANUEL RUEDA
Leftist guerrillas in Colombia will ask that country’s government for a bilateral ceasefire when peace talks between both sides begin a month from now in Oslo, Norway, the rebel group announced on Thursday.
News of the bombshell proposal came during a press conference in Havana, in which negotiators for the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerillas answered questions about formal peace talks that are scheduled to begin October 7.
“We’ve always wanted peace,” said FARC negotiator Mauricio Jaramillo. “We’ve wanted peace ever since Marquetalia,” Jaramillo added, referring to the region of Colombia where the group was founded 48 years ago.
A ceasefire would make this round of negotations markedly different from the last formal effort to end Colombia’s decades-old conflict.
During those talks, which lasted from 1999 to 2002, rebel forces and the military attacked one another, as negotiators from both camps talked about issues like land distribution and economic development in Colombia.
Skeptics of the upcoming round of negotiations, including former President Alvaro Uribe, say that the FARC are using these talks as a way to regroup and gather strength, and are ultimately not interested in peace.
They point out that the last time negotiations took place, the rebels were given a safe-haven the size of Switzerland, which the military was barred from entering. But the FARC used this area to train recruits, hide hostages, and even as a launching point for attacks on government forces.
We will have to see how the Colombian government responds to the FARC’s ceasefire proposal.
When he announced plans for peace talks to the Colombian public last week, President Juan Manuel Santos said that he will continue to pursue military operations against the guerrillas, on “every centimeter of national territory,” even as peace talks are underway.
(Photo: Flickr/FARC imagenes)