Colombia: FARC ends unilateral truce
HAVANA — A unilateral ceasefire declared by Colombia’s FARC rebels over the holidays ended yesterday, the organization said at peace talks in Havana, and it accused the Colombian government of mercilessly pursuing the war during its truce.
Just hours after the announcement, local press reported that a soldier had become the rebel group’s first post-ceasefire victim. The soldier was killed during confrontation between Colombian troops and a rebel batalion in the Chocó department, they reported.
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, declared a one-month ceasefire on December 15 and said in a statement issued yesterday, “we lived up to our word... despite permanent aggressions and provocations by the government’s armed forces and police units.”
The FARC statement said the fighting it was involved in over the last month was in self-defence. Government forces continued to attack and kill rebels in their remote strongholds in the jungles and mountains of Colombia over the holidays.
“It is a shame there is no extension of the ceasefire. It ended today,” Andrés París, one of the FARC negotiators, told reporters on the sidelines of the talks.
FARC has repeatedly called for both sides to halt hostilities, but President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to agree. He has said that the government would maintain the military pressure to keep FARC at the negotiating table, a position it has held since talks began 15 months ago.
The rebels previously observed another unilateral ceasefire that lasted two months.
SUPPORT FOR PETRO
FARC also expressed support for Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, a former rebel with another leftist guerrilla group known as the M-19 movement.
Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez has ordered Petro ousted from office and banned from politics for 15 years for trying to fire private waste-hauling contractors during a 2012 dispute over garbage collection. A court temporarily suspended the ruling this week.
Petro has denounced that his removal is politically-motivated and that it shows that FARC rebels won’t be easily incorporated into the political system if peace talks are successful.
Thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets to protest his ouster and have blamed rightist Ordóñez for his removal.
THE DRUG WAR
Rebel participation in politics has been one of the issues on which FARC and the Colombian government have agreed.
The two sides have also agreed on agrarian reform and are currently tackling the country’s entrenched drug war.
The issues of reparations for war victims and the process of disarmament still need to be worked out, along with the thorny issue of what happens to FARC commanders and military personnel accused of various crimes, human rights violations and killing civilians.
The FARC, the larger of two guerrilla groups, with some 8,000 troops, has repeatedly stated that an agreement cannot include prison time for any of its leaders.
Formed in the 1960s, the FARC is the oldest active guerrilla army in the Western Hemisphere. The rebels are considered a terrorist organization by the Colombian government and its main ally, the United States.
The armed conflict between the rebels and the Colombian state has killed more than 200,000 people in the five decades since it began as a peasant movement seeking land reform.
Herald with AP and Reuters