Negotiations with FARCSaturday, January 18, 2014
Santos hopes to achieve peace in 2014
BOGOTÁ — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday that he hopes to close 2014 with a peace deal with FARC rebels, though he acknowledged that the agreement won’t be signed before general elections in May, in which he will seek reelection.
“I am convinced that if the two sides maintain their political will, we will achieve peace. And peace will change this country,” the president said during an interview with Super Popayán radio. “I expect to finalize negotiations this year,” he added.
Regarding the possibility of reaching a deal before the election, he said he didn’t think it was possible but highlighted that he thinks “that we can advance a lot more from now until the day of the vote.”
Peace talks between the government and FARC rebels began in November 2012. So far, the two sides have reached partial agreements on only the two first points of a six-point agenda. Talks have now moved to the country’s entrenched drug war, with the rebels demanding the government finance a crop substitution programme to help farmers replace coca and marijuana plantations.
Santos had initially set a one-year deadline for the talks but yesterday he said that a conflict “that has been going on for 50 years won’t be solved in 50 weeks.”
The Colombian president stressed the need to “advance as fast as possible in negotiations” in order “to save as many lives as we can.”
He added that if talks move forward “we will have fewer attacks like the one that took place on Thursday in Pradera, in the southwest of the country, that left one dead and more that 20 injured.
FARC announced on Wednesday that it was putting an end to a one-month unilateral ceasefire that it had declared before Christmas and accused the government of “merciless attacks” during the truce.
Santos has refused to stop military operations against rebels before a peace deal is reached.
The majority of Colombians supports the continuation of the peace talks though most don’t believe that a deal will be achieved.