Colombia’s government and the rebel group known as FARC-EMC on Monday signed a three-month cease-fire and formally began peace talks, as President Gustavo Petro tries to bolster his plans to pacify rural areas ahead of regional elections that will take place at the end of October.
In an event that took place in the township of Tibu, near Colombia’s border with Venezuela, both sides also agreed to cease attacks on civilians and set up a group that will monitor the cease-fire and could include United Nations personnel.
“Peace today seems to have been eclipsed when sirens, bombs, shouts of pain and desperation can be heard in places like the Middle East, Europe or sub-Saharan Africa” said Camilo González, the government’s lead negotiator. “These peace talks (in Colombia) are a bet on life and freedom.”
FARC-EMC are currently Colombia’s third largest armed group, with around 3,500 members. The group is led by left-wing guerrilla fighters who refused to join a 2016 peace deal between Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in which more than 12,000 rebels laid down their guns.
The talks with the FARC-EMC are part of President Petro’s total peace strategy, which includes negotiating with various armed groups.
Colombia’s government in June signed a 6-month cease-fire with the National Liberation Army, the country’s largest remaining guerrilla group. But talks with the Gulf Clan, the nation’s second largest armed group, broke down earlier this year as the military cracked down on illegal mining in a region controlled by that organization.
FARC-EMC said in September that they will not interfere in municipal and provincial elections that will be held on October 29. Their leaders argued that they wanted to give the government a gesture of good will, as both sides tried to broker a cease-fire.
Last year, on December 31, President Petro ordered his troops to stop attacks on the FARC-EMC. But that cease-fire broke down in May after the rebels killed three teenagers from an Indigenous community who had been forcibly recruited and were trying to escape from one of the group’s camps.
Jorge Restrepo, a Colombian security analyst, said that the current cease-fire could take some time to implement, because FARC-EMC operates as a coalition of different rebel units, each with its own interests.
“There are disputes between the different groups that make up the EMC,” Restrepo said. “So that could limit the effect of the cease-fire on rural communities.”
Source: ABC News