Guerrilla group FARC urged Colombia’s government on Sunday to immediately agree to a bilateral ceasefire, arguing the rebels’ unilateral truce cannot be sustained.
The FARC made ardent complaints Sunday against the Colombian government’s lack of will to commit to a ceasefire, claiming the state continues to seek military advantage in the midst of peace talks.
“It seems that every gesture made by the insurgency to ease the pain of the confrontation is interpreted as weakness by the counterparty. It seems (the state) does not honor the evident decision that the FARC-EP have shown to take the path of reconciliation,” FARC negotiator “Ivan Marquez” said at a press conference in Havana, Cuba where talks have been ongoing for three years.
“It seems that there persists a misconception by the government to seek military advantage and positioning on the ground, and then bind the insurgency group to follow a path of submission,” Marquez said.
On July 20, the FARC declared a second “definite” unilateral ceasefire, after one called on December 20 was suspended over hostilities between the state and the guerrilla group.
As a result of what the FARC believes to be unjust conditions for the deescalation of the conflict, the rebel group demanded the government to enter a preliminary bilateral truce as a new step towards an eventual total bilateral ceasefire.
“We propose to the government and the state to enter now, without conditions that only provoke mistrust, a preliminary bilateral truce as a gradual step to the definitive bilateral ceasefire … Its success depends entirely on the will of each party,” the top FARC commander said.
The guerrillas over the past week have stepped up accusations that the military is continuing to carry out ground offensives, and even claimed two bombardments, accusations not confirmed by independent observers.
The goal now, the FARC negotiator stated, is to force the government to also lay down arms — in order to achieve a truly mutual deescalation of the decades-long conflict in Colombia.
The government recently urged the rebel group to agree to a concentration on troops as a condition for a bilateral and definite ceasefire.
The FARC want an end to hostilities while keeping their forces in the jungles.
“No pretext is valid to justify attacks and pressures against a guerrilla group in peace dialogues and a ceasefire, with which the government has signed a deescalation of the conflict,” the group’s lead negotiator emphasized.
In a recent historic step towards peace, President Juan Manuel Santos proposed the declaration of a bilateral ceasefire, which the two groups agreed to begin mid-December — one that will hopefully lead to a genuine end to the conflict with the FARC in the new year and a final signing of the peace agreements.
Numerous issues, however, remain scattered across the negotiations table in Havana, including the FARC’s concern over neo-paramilitary groups.
This concern in particular has been proven legitimate, as a recent study stated that allegedly demobilized members of the AUC, the country’s largest paramilitary group, have in fact continued “the development of the same activities” and “remain in arms.”
The process of demobilization also generates fears for the FARC, as it requires the concentration of their troops in operative zones — a procedure which according to the guerrillas previously resulted in the assassination of many of their members.
The December 16 deadline of the proposed bilateral ceasefire places an immense amount of pressure on the FARC to demobilize their some 8,000 on-the-ground guerrilla fighters and possibly 12,000 armed and unarmed militia members.
If the government and the FARC agree to end hostilities, this would end more than half a century of violence between the Marxist guerrilla group and the Colombian state.
The conflict that involved a number of other parties has left more than 260,000 Colombians dead and another 6.5 million displaced.