Tag Archive | "FARC"

Colombia: Government and FARC Sign Historic Agreement

The Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrilla reached a partial agreement on transitional justice and victims’ reparations on Wednesday afternoon. The document was pitched as proof that the Havana peace talks brokered by Cuba and Norway –and commended by the Pope himself– have been successful. But there are quite a few sceptics.

President Santos and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez announce the agreement together with Cuban president Raúl Castro (photo courtesy of FARC peace delegation)

President Santos and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez announce the agreement together with Cuban president Raúl Castro (photo courtesy of FARC peace delegation)

The foremost achievement was the agreement to establish a Special Jurisdiction for Peace, made up of several courts and a Peace Tribunal, whose duty will be to combat impunity and seek the truth, the document claims. It would dole out a special type of amnesty: reduced sentences in exchange for confessions from both military officials and guerilla members. lt relies heavily on the concept of alternative justice, exemplified by what some have referred to as light-handed sentences: financial reparations for victims and five to eight years in low-security work camps for perpetrators who confess their crimes. On the other hand, those who do not admit wrongdoing, and are found guilty, will serve up to 20 years in prison. Also war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other grave crimes such as kidnappings, torture, forced displacements, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and sexual violence will not fall under the scope of the amnesty.

Both members of the guerrilla and State agents will be tried by this special tribunal.

The document also lays down the groundwork for transforming the FARC into a full-fledged political party. FARC leader, Timoleon Jimenez, confirmed those intentions. “Now we must work to build consensus,” he said, “and work to transform FARC into a legal political movement.”

President Juan Manuel Santos said that he was aware that this deal would not please all Colombians, and he was right. Critics of the agreement hammered out during these negotiations say the deal will set the stage for the FARC to enjoy impunity. One of its most ardent opponents is Colombia’s former president and current congressman, Alvaro Uribe. Colombia’s Attorney General, Alejandro Ordonez Maldonado, has also expounded against the latest developments in transitional justice set forth at Wednesday’s meeting.

The wounds from half a century of warfare are not quick to heal and the ongoing peace-talks have served to highlight the growing divide within Colombian society. Former Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba Ruiz and Green Party politician Claudia López might see the handshake between President Santos and FARC-leader Jimenez as a sign of hope. Yet Democratic Centre party members such as Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and Alfredo Rangel have voiced their discontent. “To equate the forces of order with terrorists is a blow to the morale of heroes,” quipped Zuluaga via Twitter, in response to the proposed sentencing of both soldiers and rebels during the Peace Tribunal trials. While Senator Rangel offered: “Peace with impunity is neither stable nor sustainable: it’s offensive towards victims, the people reject it, it mocks the justice system and it generates new cycles of violence.”

Other worries voiced refer to the armed group’s links to the drug trade and the social inclusion of former guerilla fighters into a peaceful society.

The final agreement with which the peace talks will conclude, scheduled for next March, will not immediately equate peace. The document will have to be signed by both parties, then approved by the Colombian people in a referendum, and finally ratified by Congress.

The peace talks started in 2012. The FARC has frequently violated unilateral cease-fires in the past, and the government has refused to enter into a bilateral cease-fire. Endorsement of the March 2016 document would give the rebel group 60 days to lay down their arms — permanently.

The Colombian government also expects a 2% jolt in the country’s GDP if they manage to strike a peace deal.

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Colombia: FARC ‘Ready to Lay Down Arms’ as Violence Declines

The FARC peace delegation (photo courtesy of FARC-EP)

The FARC peace delegation (photo courtesy of FARC-EP)

A report has revealed a steep decline in violent activity by the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) in the last two months. The news comes days after an announcement from leader Iván Márquez that the guerrilla group are ready to lay down their arms and transition into becoming a “political movement”.

The report, released yesterday by the Centre of Resources for Conflict Analysis (CERAC), shows a decrease in FARC violence to levels not seen since 1975.

The FARC and the national government agreed on a series of de-escalation measures in July, and they have increasingly complied with them, making them the “most effective” since the truce of 1984, according to the report.

The drop in violent incidents by the guerrillas over the last two months corresponds to an 81% reduction when compared to monthly averages during previous unilateral cease-fires.

In the last five weeks, CERAC observed no offensive actions from the guerrillas, nor any military operations involving aerial bombs against FARC camps. However, FARC did violate the cease-fire on at least three occasions in the first four weeks of monitoring, leaving two civilians injured and one dead. “Even so,” the report highlights, “FARC violated the cease-fire in fewer occasions than previous unilateral cease-fires.”

Since the peace process began on 18th October 2012, the only calendar month in which no violent actions by FARC were recorded was January 2015.

The report states that, with the reduction in violence, “an opportunity for consolidating the peace process has presented itself. If FARC renounce violence, and a bilateral cease-fire is achieved quickly, a return to open conflict is very unlikely.”

The latest round of peace talks between rebels and the Colombian government closed in Havana on Thursday, with Márquez stating, “We are ready to discuss the steps for a transition from being an armed insurgent group to becoming an open political movement.”

Points to be discussed when negotiations reopen on Monday 28th September include reparations to families of victims of the conflict, further de-escalation measures, and transitional justice processes for the reintegration of rebels to civil society. FARC said that they were “at the doors of an understanding” and that agreement on the latter point of reintegration could “spark a positive dynamic”, facilitating “the end of the conflict”.

Colombian Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo later affirmed the possibility of the group joining the political process, speaking at the forum on peace in Bogotá. He said, “If FARC renounces violence […], if weapons are left behind, then obviously anyone who wants to express their ideas and defend them with out weapons within Colombian democracy should form a political party.”

Yesterday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos celebrated World Peace Day, tweeting “Today, on World Peace Day, let’s remember that [peace] is our greatest aim. Colombians deserve to live without war!”

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Colombia: Government Pledges to De-escalate Military Action

President Santos addresses Colombians in a televised speech (photo: Juan Pablo Bello - SIG/Government of Colombia)

President Santos addresses Colombians in a televised speech (photo: Juan Pablo Bello – SIG/Government of Colombia)

Yesterday, the Colombian government vowed to pull forces back from military action against FARC.

For the first time since peace talks began in 2012, Colombian authorities have agreed to reduce military activity against the leftist guerrillas.

The move follows FARC’s call last week for a unilateral ceasefire starting on 20th July, the sixth ceasefire it has called during the course of the on-going peace talks.

FARC has long advocated for a bilateral ceasefire, however, a skeptical Colombian government has refused to a deal, claiming FARC has previously used the attempts to rearm.

The two sides have been engaged in peace talks for two and a half years in an attempt to end Latin America’s longest war, which has killed about 220,000 over 50 years. However, the country has witnessed an increase in violence this year, intensified by FARC attacks that left several police officers and soldiers dead and two principal rivers polluted by oil spills, actions that were seen as strategical to pressure the government to agree to a bilateral ceasefire.

“I can’t ignore, because I feel it as well, the frustration, the discouragement, the indignation produced in Colombians to see the FARC assassinating soldiers and police and blowing up pipelines and electricity towers, affecting the poor and producing irreparable environmental damage,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in his address to the nation Sunday night.

The government and the guerrillas said they would work together in an attempt to reach a permanent bilateral ceasefire. To accelerate talks and reach a peace agreement this year, the FARC has agreed to change the methodology of the talks and put all remaining issues on the table at once, instead of adhering to one topic at a time.

“We have to accelerate the talks to end the conflict as soon as possible,” Santos said. “In four months from now, depending on whether the FARC complies, I will decide on whether we continue with the process or not.”

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Colombia: Government to Negotiate Bilateral Ceasefire with FARC

President Santos addresses Colombians in a televised speech (photo: Juan Pablo Bello - SIG/Government of Colombia)

President Santos addressed Colombians yesterday (photo: Juan Pablo Bello – SIG/Government of Colombia)

President Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday he has instructed the government’s peace negotiators in Havana to begin discussions with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for a “bilateral and definitive ceasefire.”

In his first address of the year, Santos claimed 2015 “could be the year in which the armed conflict we have suffered for over half a century comes to an end,” thanks to the progress made in the peace talks with the guerrilla. With that aim, the president said he has “given instructions to the [peace] negotiators to begin as soon as possible the discussion on the item of a bilateral and definitive ceasefire and an end to the hostilities.”

He acknowledged that “the unilateral and definitive ceasefire decreed by the FARC has been a step in the right direction. And so far —we have to say this— they have abided by it.”

Santos highlighted that the final two agenda items are being discussed in Havana: Rights of the Victims and End of Conflict. He added that “we have already begun working on how we will carry out the laying down of weapons and the reintegration to civilian life of those who give up the armed struggle.”

The president also referred to recent declarations by the National Liberation Army (ELN) regarding their willingness to engage in dialogue with the Colombian government in order to bring an end to the armed conflict. Santos said he considers these declarations to be “positive” and that he hopes to establish the agenda items soon, in order to begin the dialogue.

The FARC responded to President Santos with a statement saying they are “pleased” with the decision by the government to discuss a bilateral ceasefire and to set up a sub-committee to begin working on the agenda item pertaining to the end of the conflict. However, they also criticised the government’s orders “to intensify offensive actions against the guerrilla during the truce,” which they find to be “contradictory and reckless” and a risk to the continuity of the unilateral ceasefire.

The FARC also declared to be ready to “initiate discussions that will allow us to clarify the phenomenon of paramilitarism, the definition of solutions that will lead us to overcome poverty, inequality, lack of democracy, and the re-establishment of sovereignty,” as well as what they consider the sixth item of the agenda, which is the implementation of the peace deals.

FARC and government representatives are due to meet on the 18th January for a preparatory meeting, previous to the beginning of the next round of talks in Havana, due on the 26th January.


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Colombia: FARC Declares Unilateral Ceasefire

FARC flag

FARC flag

In an historic first, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have declared an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire which will come into effect on 20th December.

Iván Márquez, the chief negotiator for FARC, read the statement yesterday in Havana, Cuba, in which the group said they hoped the ceasefire “would turn into an armistice”.

“We want to overcome the useless bloodshed,” he said, but added that the ceasefire would be terminated if they found that their guerrilla structures had been targeted by security forces. He went on to ask the public to act as overseer to the ceasefire. FARC also asked for oversight from Unsaur, Celac, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Frente Amplio por la Paz.

Colombia’s government responded to the news cautiously, saying that the decision goes in the right direction but that the organisation could not repeat past experiences of ceasefires that had only been partially followed. “All armed activity and threats to the civilian population must cease,” said the government in a statement.

The announcement came as the current round of peace talks between Juan Manuel Santos’ administration and the FARC draws to a close in Havana.

The peace talks, which began in November 2012, aim to put an end to over half a century of armed conflict that has killed over 220,000 people and displaced over two million.

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Colombia: FARC Release Kidnapped General, Peace Talks To Resume

President Santos met with the government negotiators on Sunday night, before their trip to Cuba (photo: César Carrión - SIG/Colombian government)

President Santos met with the government negotiators on Sunday night, before their trip to Cuba (photo: César Carrión – SIG/Colombian government)

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released kidnapped General Rubén Darío Alzate and two other Army staff on Sunday morning.

The three Army personnel were delivered to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), thus removing the obstacle to the resumption of the peace talks in Havana. The Colombian government representatives are travelling to Cuba today and expect to resume the negotiations within the next few days.

“The negotiators will travel to Cuba this afternoon, they have a meeting in a couple of days; the Cuban government has requested that we don’t hold the meeting within the next few days as they are going to need to convention centre for a series of events,” explained Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Once there, they will “evaluate where the process is at, where we’re going, and will carry out a cold and objective evaluation of the process to see how we can move forward,” added Santos.

After the release, the FARC released a statement calling for “the re-design of the rules”. “It is time for a bilateral ceasefire, for an armistice, so that no war-related occurrence in the battle fields can justify the interruption of such a beautiful and historical task, which is agreeing peace for a nation that longs for that destiny.”

However, President Santos rejected the ceasefire once more. “I have the conviction that negotiating during the ongoing conflict is the best way to preserve the essential elements of the state and to keep the conversations from turning into an endless exercise,” he said.

He also acknowledged the role of the FARC in the release operation: “Even though the step taken by the FARC follows the duty to act as per the law, it is evident that the decision [to free the prisoners] contributes to recover a favourable climate to carry on with the dialogues,” as well as “it shows the maturity of the process.”

Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC in Colombia, said in a statement that the operation was carried out “thanks to the trust the parties put into the institution and its humanitarian work,” and hoped that the negotiations “can be resumed soon.” The guarantor countries, Norway and Cuba, also praised both parties for their “constructive position” and supported the ongoing peace process.

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Colombia: FARC Releases Two Soldiers

President Santos at yesterday's press conference (photo: Javier Casella/AFP/Télam)

President Santos announced the suspension of the peace talks last week (photo: Javier Casella/AFP/Télam)

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) released yesterday the two soldiers they had captured on 9th November.

The soldiers, Paulo Rivera and Jonathan Díaz, were handed over to a commission formed by members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the governments of Cuba and Norway, the guarantors of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC.

The release was carried out in an undisclosed location in the district of Arauca. The soldiers were then taken by the Army to the capital Bogotá, where they will undergo medical check-ups and reunite with their families.

In a statement, the FARC said they will now “focus their efforts” on the release of General Rubén Darío Alzate and two other army staff who were kidnapped on 16th November. President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed the release of Alzate will take place on Saturday, and announced on Twitter that the military operations on the Pacific coast have been suspended in order to facilitate the release.

The FARC denounced military operations during the release of the two soldiers, and demanded the Army respects the Special Humanitarian Agreement in the upcoming release of Alzate. “During the release of the general [Alzate] we don’t want any risks of clashes due to [the Army] not following the protocols. Yesterday, when the Alfonso Castellanos Column of the Tenth Front was going to the place of release of the prisoners, an Army patrol appeared by surprise in the area, which forced them to avoid them and change the site chosen for the release,” said a statement by the guerrilla.

President Santos suspended the peace talks as information about the kidnapping of General Alzate became known. He affirmed that they would not resume until Alzate was freed. Last week, the FARC agreed to the release of the prisoners —including Alzate, the two army staff travelling with him, and the two soldiers captured on 9th November— after representatives from Cuba and Norway intervened in the conflict.

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The Indy’s Weekly Review – 21st November 2014

Coming up on this episode of The Indy’s Weekly Review:

We look back on a tense week in Colombia, after peace talks with the FARC were suspended following the kidnapping of an army general; we speak to human rights lawyer Marcos Filardi about proposed changes to Argentina’s seed law; and after the recent murder of Miss Honduras caused media furore, we question why some lives seem to matter more than others to the media.

All that, plus the main news headlines from Argentina and Latin America and an exclusive preview of the upcoming album by this week’s featured artist, Chaski Pum.


(Click on ‘Descargar’ to download)

Presented by: Kristie Robinson & Marc Rogers
Production: Celina Andreassi
Editing: Pablo Fisher

We will be looking to continually improve and add to this podcast, and we’d love to hear your feedback on it, as well as suggestions for any additional stories or content you’d like to hear in it in the future. Send us an email at info@argentinaindependent.com, or comment on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Colombia: FARC Agrees to Release General After Guarantors Intervene

The guarantors from Cuba and Norway announce that FARC will release captured soldiers (Photo via PazFARC-EP)

The guarantors from Cuba and Norway announce that FARC will release captured soldiers (Photo via PazFARC-EP)

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) have agreed to release a kidnapped Colombian army general, clearing the path for the resumption of peace talks with the government.

International guarantors in the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC announced last night that the guerrilla group would return Rubén Darío Alzate and two other army personnel who were kidnapped on Sunday in the district of Chocó.

The representatives from Norway and Cuba also said that the FARC had agreed to release two other soldiers that had been kidnapped on 9th November. The liberation process will be supervised by the mediating countries and the International Red Cross.

Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos said he would “guarantee” the safe return of the soldiers. “The government will collaborate to guarantee the safe return of these people to their home, which we hope will be in the shortest time possible,” read a statement from the president. “One they are free, the government’s peace delegation will return to Havana.

General Alzate is the highest-ranking army officer to have ever been kidnapped by the FARC, which blamed the government for not accepting a ceasefire proposal while the peace talks continued. The guerrilla group says it has agreed to stop the kidnapping of civilians but consider the capture of Alzate and other military personnel to be an act of war.

Peace talks between the FARC and government began in Havana in November 2012. So far, the two sides have reached an agreement on three of the five key issues to be addressed before a final peace accord can be signed.

The current round of negotiation involve discussions over the victims of Colombia’s internal conflict.

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Colombia: Government Suspends Peace Talks Over Kidnapping

President Santos at yesterday's press conference (photo: Javier Casella/AFP/Télam)

President Santos at yesterday’s press conference (photo: Javier Casella/AFP/Télam)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced yesterday the suspension of the peace talks with the FARC, after it became known that an Army General had been kidnapped, allegedly by members of the guerrilla.

According to a witness, General Rubén Darío Alzate boarded a boat down the Atrato river in the district of Chocó on Sunday afternoon, with another soldier, an army lawyer, and the boatman. They were inspecting works being carried out by the Army in the district. Despite warnings by the accompanying soldier regarding the heavy presence of guerrilla members in the area, Alzate —who was dressed in civilian clothing— gave the order to continue down to the village of Las Mercedes.

Once in Las Mercedes, General Alzate, the soldier, and the lawyer disembarked and were met by FARC members who allegedly kidnapped all three of them. The boatman was able to escape and alert the authorities.

“It is the FARC, we already know that, who are responsible for this kidnapping,” said President Santos in a press conference on Sunday. “A totally unacceptable kidnapping. We have information that gives us the certainty that it was the FARC.”

The president continued: “Tomorrow [for today], peace negotiators were travelling to a new round of peace talks in Havana. I will tell the negotiators not to travel, and that this negotiation is suspended until this is cleared up and these people are freed.”

President Santos also requested an explanation from the Army authorities regarding “a series of circumstances that need to be cleared up. Why was General Alzate in civilian clothing. Why did he tell his escorts not to go with him. Why he did not heed the boatman’s warning to not keep going down the river.”

He also made comments about these issues on his Twitter account, saying: “Defense Ministry and Commander General: I want you to explain why BG Alzate broke all the security protocols and was in civilian clothing in a red zone.”

General Alzate is the highest-ranking army officer ever kidnapped by the FARC. As part of the peace process, the FARC had announced an end to hostage-taking.

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