May 20, 2013
No military or verbal truce for FARC rebels, Santos says
Colombia's government will not hold back militarily or politically in its offensive against Marxist rebels, President Juan Manuel Santos said today, after FARC guerrillas said his hostile attitude was threatening peace negotiations.
Latin America's longest-running insurgency has heated up in recent weeks after a series of kidnappings and conflicts across the country, while government and rebel negotiators meet in Cuba to try to reach a deal to end the five-decades-old war.
Both sides traded barbs this week, with Santos saying rebels should compensate thousands of farmers who were forced to flee their lands, and FARC leader Timochenko charging that Santos' statements were hampering delicate talks in Havana.
"The gauge for the government is in Cuba. As we move forward (with the peace process) we are satisfied. If we do not move forward, we get up from the table," Santos said in a weekly address broadcast on local television.
"Here there is no truce of any kind, not militarily, not judicial, not even verbal," he said.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, has repeatedly called for a bilateral ceasefire, which the government flatly rejects. The FARC ended a two-month unilateral ceasefire on Jan. 20.
Since then, fighting has heated up, especially in southern Colombia, where guerrillas maintain a strong presence, and which is a key route for smuggling drugs.
The war of words is also simmering.
In a letter published on Friday, Timochenko called on Santos to help "save" the peace process.
"Peace is saved with concrete agreements, and not with letters and pronouncements," Santos retorted on Saturday.
Guerrillas have stepped up attacks against the oil and mining sectors, key industries for economic growth that have attracted huge foreign investment inflows since a 2002 military offensive pushed rebels into more remote hideouts.
FARC rebels dynamited the Cano Limon-Coveñas oil pipeline twice this week, once on Wednesday and again on Friday, in the Norte de Santander province, according to military officials and the state-run oil company Ecopetrol.
The attacks against the 780-km (485-mile) line, which transports 80,000 barrels of oil per day, caused fires and spilt crude into the Catatumbo river, the company said.