The government on Tuesday confirmed that politicians traveled to Havana to meet with rebel group FARC without authorization.
In an effort to discuss a bill President Juan Manuel Santos introduced in August that would put any agreement reached between the FARC and his government’s negotiators on a ballot referendum in the upcoming national elections, the rebels extended an invitation to congressional leaders to meet in Havana.
MORE: Members of Colombia’s Congress to meet FARC in Cuba
While Santos has not dismissed the notion, he has insisted that Colombian congressmen will only travel to Havana in order to meet with rebel group FARC when the government deems it appropriate.
MORE: Colombia congressmen will travel to Cuba when government deems appropriate: Santos
But in late September, the Inspector General’s office became aware of several public officials who traveled to Havana without the permission of the government, a claim the government has now confirmed.
MORE: Inspector General to investigate politicians who traveled to Havana to meet with FARC
“The government is very concerned with officials who have traveled without the authorization of the President,” explained Interior Minister Aurelio Iragorri Valencia. “The national government is the only entity who can authorize the presence of an official or individual in Cuba.”
Last week, the leader of the council of Bogotá, Jose Horacio Serpa, was the first politician who acknowledged that he met with the FARC in Havana. However, he made it clear that all he had was a brief greeting in a hotel in Cuba with FARC negotiators.
The Inspector General’s office likened the offence to those embroiled in the parapolitics scandal, in which thousands of congressmen and other politicians have been linked to the AUC, a now defunct paramilitary group responsible for numerous human rights abuses.
“There is no difference between those who meet with the paramilitaries and those who in previous weeks, being a public official in violation of the legal prohibition without authorization of the president or high commissioner, have been operating in Havana,” insisted Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez.
The government and rebel group FARC have been involved in peace talks since November in order to seek a negotiated end to the internal conflict.
While an accord has been reached regarding land reform, no agreements have been made on the issue of the FARC’s political participation, drug trafficking, the practicalities of the end of the armed conflict and the rights of the victims.
- Gobierno confirma que hubo viajes a La Habana sin autorización (El Espectador)