Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the head of the country’s leftist FARC rebels have agreed on a cease-fire and rebel disarmament deal that moves the country to the brink of ending a 52-year war that has left more than 220,000 people dead.
CCTV’s Michael Voss reports from Havana.
Colombian president, head of FARC rebels agree on cease-fireColombia will move closer than ever to ending a half-century of bloodshed when its president joins leftist rebels Thursday in celebrating a cease-fire and disarmament agreement at a dignitary-studded signing ceremony in Cuba. CCTV's Michael Voss reports from Havana.
At a ceremony in Havana attended Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, a special U.S. envoy and the presidents of Cuba, Chile, Venezuela and other Latin American countries, Santos and FARC commander Rodrigo Londono, better known as Timochenko, listened to the reading of a deal laying out how 7,000 rebel fighters will demobilize and hand over their weapons once a peace accord is implemented.
Colombians celebrate cease-fire
In Colombia, jubilation and celebrations took place in the streets following the news of a cease-fire deal signed by FARC rebels with Colombian government. The citizens of Bogota were out in force following the announcement.
CCTV’s Michelle Begue has Insight from Bogota. –>
Colombia’s conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions. But a 15-year, U.S.-backed military offensive thinned rebel ranks and forced FARC’s aging leaders to the negotiating table in 2012. And in Santos, a U.S.-educated economist and scion of one of Colombia’s richest families, the rebels found a trusted partner who hailed from the conservative elite but wasn’t bound by its prejudices.
Momentum had been building toward a breakthrough after Santos said this week that he hoped to deliver a peace accord in time to mark Colombia’s declaration of independence from Spain on July 20. But the latest agreement went further than expected.
In addition to a framework for the cease-fire, both sides said Wednesday they agreed on a demobilization plan that will see guerrillas concentrate in rural areas and hand over weapons that had long been the vaunted symbols of their movement’s origins as a self-defense force of peasant farmers attacked by the oligarchy-controlled state.
The FARC are Latin America’s largest rebel army and almost half of their members are women. They train and fight alongside the men and share daily chores.
Negotiators in January agreed on the United Nations being responsible for monitoring adherence to the eventual cease-fire and resolving disputes emerging from the demobilization.
Santos has also promised to let Colombians vote on accepting the final accord in a national referendum, and his government isn’t taking acceptance for granted.
“Tomorrow will be a great day,” Santos tweeted Wednesday. “We’re working for a Colombia in peace, a dream that’s beginning to become reality.”
A peace deal won’t make Colombia safer overnight.
The proliferation of cocaine has fueled the conflict longer than any other in Latin America and will remain a powerful magnet for criminal gangs operating in Colombia’s remote valleys and lawless jungles. Colombia is the largest supplier of cocaine to the U.S. and only a small fraction of the country’s 12,000-plus homicides last year had anything to do with the conflict.
There is also the risk that the country’s second rebel movement, the much-smaller but more recalcitrant National Liberation Army, could fill the void left by the FARC. That rebel group agreed to negotiations with the government earlier this year but those talks have yet to start because of Santos’ insistence that it renounce kidnapping
But if the FARC honor their commitments and the fighters are successfully integrated back into society, the government could begin shifting resources away from the battlefield and toward attacking other forms of crime and the crushing poverty and inequality that it feeds on.
One wild card is the posture of critics like popular former President Alvaro Uribe, who spearheaded the military offensive against the FARC last decade. Partly because of his success beating back the FARC, Colombians almost unanimously refer to the rebels as “terrorists.” Polls say most Colombians can’t muster the thought of seeing rebel leaders behind atrocious war crimes walking the streets freely let alone occupying seats in a democratic congress whose legitimacy the FARC didn’t even recognize until recently.
Uribe refused to comment on Wednesday’s announcement, saying he was waiting more details.
Others couldn’t hold back their excitement. Leftist Sen. Ivan Cepeda borrowed a phrase from Colombia’s beloved Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to compare the prospect of peace to a “second chance on earth.”
“It’s time to rid ourselves of hatred, lies and fears and build reconciliation among all our compatriots,” Cepeda, one of the government’s most-trusted conduits to the FARC, said on Twitter. “Peace defeats death.”
Story by the Associated Press
Peter Vincent discusses Colombia cease-fire deal
For more on the cease-fire ceremony, CCTV America’s Elaine Reyes spoke to Peter Vincent, former head of U.S. Extraditions in Colombia and director counselor for International Policy at Borderpol.
Mr. Vincent touched upon his initial reactions to the agreement between Colombian government and Farc rebels, what kind of momentum it has created for future talks and Cuba’s role in brokering this deal.