Colombia Negotiators to Discuss Bilateral Ceasefire with FARC

Español A month after Marxist rebel group FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on January 14 that the government would seek to forge a bilateral end to half a century of conflict.

In a televised address on Wednesday, the president revealed that he had directed government negotiators in Havana to accelerate talks on reaching a joint truce.

“I’ve given instructions to the negotiators to begin a discussion on a ceasefire, and a bilateral and indefinite end to hostilities, as soon as possible,” said the Colombian premier, speaking from Bogotá’s Casa de Nariño.

Santos further praised the unilateral and indefinite ceasefire declared by FARC on December 20 “as a step in the right direction.”

He also stated that his administration had been preparing a group of military personnel to oversee the end to hostilities. The Transition Command, led by General Javier Flórez, was created in August 2014 with the objective of directing “the process of of moving from war to peace, from conflict to post-conflict.”

However, Santos later clarified that ongoing military operations would not be suspended until a joint agreement was signed in Havana.

During negotiations in Cuba, FARC and government negotiators have signed partial agreements to improve the access of poor farmers to land, facilitate the transformation of the guerrilla organization into a political party, and combat drug cultivation and trafficking. However, the issue of formally ending the violence has proved difficult.

Some 24 hours before Santos’s announcement, military authorities dispatched anti-explosive technicians to the southern village of Puerto Amar, San Vicente del Caguán municipality, after being alerted to the presence of FARC fighters from the rebel group’s Southern Bloc.

The bomb-disposal squad found two improvised explosive devices installed three meters from classrooms of the local school. The IEDs consisted of cylindrical drums loaded with some 50 kilograms of pentolite, a military-grade explosive, and packed with shrapnel, chains, and oil, among other explosive components.

Rebel fighters had also daubed murals of FARC leaders Luis Alberto Morantes and Pedro Antonio Marín onto the walls of the school, which army sources described as “an act of vandalism and intimidation.”

Troops from the Colombian army’s Sixth Division had worked to improve the physical facilities available at the school in December 2014, including drawing murals encouraging environmental stewardship, and welcoming students to the start of the new academic year.

Sources: Diario Del Huila, El PaísReuters

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