Colombia’s oldest and largest living rebel group, the FARC, said Thursday that the rebels feel “a lot of pain” for the civilian victims of the country’s armed conflict that has continued for 50 years.
The FARC took another step toward the long road to forgiveness Thursday as guerrilla peace negotiator “Marco Leon Calarca” claimed empathy with civilian victims.
“[When there are civilian victims] we feel a lot of pain and we think that it is necessary to stop the conflict, put an end to the war so that our community, the community of which we are all part of, can look toward the future with a new optimism, without the war,” said Calarca in a press conference in Havana, Cuba.
The rebel continued to say that civilians were never intended targets during any parts of the FARC’s existence since its founding in 1964.
“It is not the policy of the FARC to attack civilians, never in the history of our organization have we planned a military action to affect civilians.”
This statement reflects a slow process of the FARC acknowledging its violent past while asking for forgiveness from its victims.
At the end of last summer, leading FARC negotiator “Pablo Catatumbo” admitted that the guerrillas had made mistakes in the past, saying, “I have no problem in telling a woman or a family: ‘I feel sorry about the pain we have caused with the death of your loved one.'”
Catatumbo also came out in November 2013 admitting fault over kidnapping practices, saying, “Yes, I believe that was an error.”
Colombia’s armed conflict has taken over 220,000 lives in acts of political violence since 1958, according to Colombia’s National Center for Historic Memory, though the Victims’ Attention and Reparation Unit has reported that the conflict has resulted in over six million victims in general.
While victims and the FARC alike have admitted that there are many players to blame for violence throughout the armed conflict, the FARC will have to personally acknowledge this theme more as ongoing peace talks between the rebels and the Colombian government approach the issue of victims reparations.
One of three issues left to be discussed in the peace dialogues that began in November 2012, the discussion of victims and victims reparations will address human rights and truth.
According to a Colombia Reports article on how victims of the armed conflict view peace talks, truth and honesty, was found to be just as important a theme as forgiveness.