Colombia’s vice-president has called on the country’s two largest rebel groups to uphold and extend the unilateral ceasefire declared ahead of last Sunday’s presidential elections.
After casting his vote in Sunday’s presidential elections, Vice-President Angelino Garzon called on the FARC and ELN to uphold and extend a ceasefire that began officially on May 20 and is set to end at midnight on May 28.
“Hopefully the guerrilla fighters of the FARC and the ELN decide to declare an indefinitely ceasefire on May 28. The guerrillas should commit themselves, on behalf of the population, to cease kidnapping, and set free those who are in captivity,” Radio Caracol reported Garzon as saying.
“The guerrilla’s should stop the practice of using anti-personnel mines and facilitate the de-mining process in certain rural regions,” Garzon added.
Garzon followed up his request for the country’s rebel groups by encouraging Colombians to vote. “It doesn’t matter what candidate you choose to elect or if you want to abstain, but when you vote you are in solidarity with Colombian democracy,” he said.
Despite the request, a mere 40% of the population showed up at the polls.
A unilateral ceasefire was announced by the country’s two largest rebel groups last week, which officially went into effect Wednesday.
The ceasefire, declared by the FARC and the ELN, was ostensibly meant as a goodwill gesture by the rebel groups ahead of Colombia’s May 25 presidential elections.
“We [the leaders] order all of our units to cease any offensive military action against the armed forces or economic infrastructure of Colombia,” said FARC Commander Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko,” in a statement released Wednesday. The unilateral ceasefire, which was not reciprocated on the part of the government, was scheduled to last from May 20 to May 28.
Since peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC began in November 2012, the question of a bilateral ceasefire has been raised repeatedly but never agreed to by the Colombian government.
The FARC and ELN jointly announced on May 16 that they would hold a unilateral ceasefire between May 20 and May 28 as a show of good will to the country and so that May 25′s presidential elections can run without any interference.
According to the joint statement, the move does not signal that Colombia’s largest rebel group support the existant political climate, as “the insurgency does not believe in the Colombian electoral system.” Rather, the “gesture” was made in the interest of “democracy” and so that a “glimmer of hope for a bilateral ceasefire” could be heard as part of the “strong national outcry” for peace the rebels claim exists in the country.
Additionally, the rebels launched criticisms of the recent drug-trafficking and wire-tapping scandals in which the two front-running presidential campaigns — of incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos and right-wing Democratic Center (Centro Democratico) party candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga — have become embroiled:
During the most recent unilateral ceasefire, which lasted from December to January 15, the FARC was unable to guarantee the actions of all of its disperse units. There were independently documented incidents of FARC aggression during the ceasefire, leading some to renew speculation that the rebel group’s central command is no longer in control of its entire military structure.
On Wednesday, the day the ceasefire officially went into affect, a policemen was killed in an alleged FARC attack on a police station in Colombia’s northeast.
The Colombian army reported on Sunday that a bomb, allegedly planted by the FARC, was disabled in an attempted attack on a hydroelectric power project in the state of Antioquia.
Vicepresidente pide a la guerrilla que cumpla con la tregua (Caracol Radio)