The statement — made by FARC negotiator Jorge Torres Victoria, alias “Pablo Catatumbo” — signaled a shift in position for Colombia’s oldest rebel group, which has historically maintained that its kidnapping victims are “prisoners of war” or “financial detainees.”
“It is true that the kidnapping, as you call them, what we have called financial detainees, has resulted in a high political cost,” said Catatumbo on one of Caracol Television’s national news programs. “Yes, I believe that it was an error.”
According to a recent study by the National Center for Historic Memory and the private firm, Cifras y Conceptos, the FARC is reponsible for 37% of the near 40,000 registered kidnappings between 1970 and 2010.
“There never has been a decision on our part to voluntarily cause pain to our [country],” Catatumbo continued, implying that the FARC would seek forgiveness through “truth and reparations” to victims affected by the armed conflict. The rebel negotiator hopes that a “commission of truth” will be established to uncover “what is the participation and responsibility of all of the actors in the conflict.”
When pressed further on the issue of forgiveness, however, Catatumbo backed off and continued more traditional FARC rhetoric.
“When you say to me if we’ll be asking for forgiveness, [I ask] forgiveness from whom? Why forgiveness? Forgiveness for taking up arms? Forgiveness for social justice groups?” he said.
Newspaper El Universal argued Catatumbo’s position could be construed as a failure to recognize the pain inflicted upon Colombia’s civil population by the FARC’s actions.
The public debate over the ongoing peace process continues as talks in Havana approach their one year anniversary on November 19. So far two of the six initial agenda items have been agreed upon.
The next stage of talks will focus on terms of a potential ceasefire, but all agreements will be contingent on the passage of a broader peace deal.