Tag Archive | "FARC"

Colombia: Santos Says Deadline for Final Peace Deal May Not be Met

President Santos (photo: Juan Pablo Bello - SIG/Government of Colombia)

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

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has said that the finalised peace deal between the government and the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) may not be signed as planned on 23rd March. 

“I will not sign a bad deal just to meet the deadline,” Santos said at a public event yesterday. He opened the possibility of setting a new date if the agreement was not reached, underscoring “I fulfil and sign what is a good deal for the Colombians.”

On 23rd September last year President Santos and FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez, also known as Timochenko, agreed to finalise the peace agreement within a six month deadline. Since then several officials, including a UN official, have expressed their doubts about reaching an agreement by the date.

Former president Álvaro Uribe, one of the harshest critics of Santos and the peace process, earlier recommended not clinging to a date. “If it is necessary to postpone the date it does not matter. The important thing is that the path is rectified,” Uribe said in Washington in late February. He said that the problem is that the deal involves impunity. “We all want peace, I know the pain of people, but you cannot open the possibility of impunity,” he said.

Back in December, in an interview with Noticias Uno, FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich blamed the government for the delay, saying: “We must be clear in saying that on 23rd March there will be no peace.” 

The former agriculture minister, who helped draft a rural reform deal with the guerrillas has also expressed serious concerns about the state’s lack of preparation for the implementation of the deals, particularly the rural reform.

The peace talks, that aim to end over 50 years of internal conflict, officially began on 19th November 2012 in Havana

The current peace talks are following an agenda made up of six points on which negotiators have reached partial agreements. The six points include land reform, guerrilla participation in politics, transitional justice, efforts to find missing persons and remove land mines, as well as illegal drug trafficking.

Before implementation, the final peace deal must be ratified by the public in a formal vote, which will then validate all the previously arranged accords.

The FARC, along with other guerrilla groups, arose as a response to violent government repression of popular progressive movements in the 1950s and 60s. The conflict has drawn in right-wing paramilitaries, drug traffickers, and several leftist rebel groups, and has left more than 6.7m victims and taken at least 260,000 lives, according to official statistics.

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Colombia: Government and FARC Reach New Agreement on Victims

The Colombian government has reached a deal with FARC rebels on reparations to victims of the conflict, one of the most sensitive issues to be discussed during the three-year-long peace process.

Representatives from Norway and Cuba, who have been brokering negotiations in Havana, announced the deal earlier today at a press conference attended by a group of victims from the conflict.

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 first agreement together with Cuban president Raúl Castro in September (photo courtesy of FARC peace delegation)

“We have taken a fundamental step forward for the construction of a stable and lasting peace and for the end of a war which has torn this country for more than half a century,” they said.

The conflict between FARC and the government has been on-going since 1964. More than 220,000 people have been killed by the fighting and more than 6 million Colombians are thought to have been displaced.

The issue of victim reparations has been on the negotiating table since August 2014. Divided into four central themes of truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees that the conflict will not be repeated, it is the justice section that has been a sticking point for both sides.

At the centre of the agreement announced today is the establishment of a special judicial system (JEP) for the punishment of war crimes, partially announced in September. The JEP will work independently and will consist of a series of different courts. One, Amnesty and Pardons, will cover lesser offenses related to the rebellion. Congress will have to determine whether or not this can include drug trafficking crimes.

Serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity will be dealt with by the Peace Tribunal. Shorter sentences of as little as eight years in prison will be offered to those who recognise their responsibility promptly.

Details on how the JEP will deal with crimes committed by state agents will be released in the next few days, Colombian Justice Minister Yesid Reyes told BBC Mundo. He said the processes would be “similar” to those applied to rebels.

Other measures announced include the creation of a Truth Commission – to uncover the causes and effects of the conflict –, the creation of a commission for the recovery of disappeared persons, the establishment of mechanisms to prevent a repeat of the conflict, and the provision of reparations to victims.

Reparations will take the form of admissions of responsibility from FARC members, the rebuilding of infrastructure, and material compensation.

The issue of Victim Reparations joins Land and Rural Development, Political Participation of the Guerillas and drug trafficking among the points successfully negotiated. Only two issues remain: the terms of disarmament and the mechanism through which the final agreement will be ratified.

A final agreement will be signed on the 23rd March 2016. However, President Juan Manuel Santos has said that the public will have to approve the deal by popular vote.



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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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