The Colombian government and FARC rebels have announced a ceasefire deal that would end the country’s 50-year war that has left over 250,000 people dead and more than 6 million displaced. This crucial step will be followed by a final peace deal and a referendum, but the cessation of hostilities is already a formality that will pave the way to peace in Colombia.
The FARC, which stands for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Spanish, was the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running insurgency as it focused on emulating the Cuban revolution by installing a government based on Marxism.
Colombians expect a final peace deal within months, probably on July 20, just in time to celebrate the Independence Day. The most arduous task included on the agenda is to demobilize 7,000 FARC soldiers who are based in mountains and forests. Colombia has been negotiating in Havana since November 2012 to reach a peace deal with the FARC.
President Juan Manuel Santos had plans to reach an agreement two years ago. The two sides set last year a deadline of March 23, 2016, but they missed it due to the sharp division on issues related to rebel demobilization and disarmament.
Many of the people in the country have not lived anything different than war and the president assured them that they could finally live without fear of being implied in a confrontation with the guerrilla, as reported by The Guardian.
However, Santos admitted that there were still conflicts to solve with other smaller groups and gangs which finance their operations through drug trafficking and kidnapping, but he said it was safe to say that the nation had already overcome the biggest obstacle to peace.
The president noted that the two sides would now fight with political debate rather than armed conflict.
“Now that we have agreed peace, as head of state and as a Colombian, I will argue, with equal determination their right to express and to continue their political struggle by legal means, even if we never agree. That is the essence of democracy to which we welcome them,” Santos expressed, according to The Guardian.
Farc chief Timoleón “Timochenko” Jiménez choked with tears as he declared the last day of one of the world’s oldest wars. He shook hands with Santos and said the two sides were finally close to a final peace deal.
United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the signing ceremony and welcomed the agreement in the context of a “world set by seemingly intractable war,” as The Guardian reported.
Cuba’s head of state Raúl Castro hosted the peace talks and said the agreement was a “victory for the people of Colombia.” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was among several other Latin American leaders present at the ceremony. Venezuela has reportedly played a significant role in encouraging the guerrilla to negotiate with the Colombian government.
U.S. diplomats also attended the peace talks after Secretary of State John Kerry declared support and met both sides earlier this year. The Colombian government has received aid from U.S. counterinsurgency, which had helped turned the tide against the FARC as top commanders were killed and thousands of foot soldiers left the insurgency, according to a report by CNN.
President Barack Obama has asked Congress to provide $450 million, which would include security for former FARC members after they silence their riffles, as well as funds for eliminating landmines.
In general, international support has played a major role in the negotiation, especially UN participation in the monitoring of the process of the cessation of hostilities and demobilization.
Source: The Guardian