Colombia’s largest rebel group, FARC, on Thursday called for free and universal education to be included in peace talks, in order to address the development deficit between rural and urban Colombia.
The most significant FARC proposals include universal and free primary and secondary education for children and young people in the countryside, and technological education for young farmers in agriculture or related disciplines. The latter proposal would include grants and full financial support for students who wished to study, either at a university or equivalent instiution.
“Considering the state abandonment which has subdued education, investigation and scientific and technological development, [we propose to] favor the process of the countryside’s democratic transformation,” said a statment read by Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch FARC member present at the ongoing peace talks between the rebels and the government in Havana, Cuba.
However, it remains to be seen how far discussion on these proposals will go; on Thursday the chief government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said that the government would refuse to discuss “themes outside of the agreed agenda.”
When FARC pushed for the “demilitarization” of the country’s rural zones, the government negotiator made it very clear that the issue would not be discussed.
“The discussions are centered on the themes which are on the agenda. There will not be new points of discussion. For example, the theme of demilitarization of rural zones does not form part of the negotiation table, [we] will not demilitarize a single centimeter of the nation,” said de la Calle, who also stated that the Colombian armed forces would not let the guard down in the fight against the rebels.
Furthermore, the government negotiator said re-negotiation of the foreign debt and higher taxes for foreign companies active in Colombia, two key FARC demands at the the peace talks, would not become open for discussion.
Despite these differences, FARC negotiator “Jesus Santrich” said on Thursday that the rebels and the government could be “close to an agreement on agrarian reform.”
“Assuredly we are finishing an important cycle [in the peace process] with new approximations and a pretty big construction of the agreement,” said Santrich.
The general’s comments came in response to the FARC’s claim that they were not involved in drug trafficking, despite numerous pieces of evidence to the contrary.
The FARC once again called for a bilateral ceasefire with the Colombian security forces. However, the Colombian government has refused to agree to a bilateral ceasefire until a “definite peace agreement” is reached.
- Seis propuestas mínimas de educación, ciencia y tecnología para la transformación democrática del campo (FARC)
- Farc siguen mintiendo desde Cuba: general Navas (RCN Radio)
- Cambios en educación y ciencia para el desarrollo, defienden FARC-EP (Prensa Latina)
- Farc insisten en alto al fuego bilateral (El Espectador)
- Desmilitarización de zonas rurales no está en la agenda de paz (El Espectador)
- Gobierno y Farc, muy cerca de un acuerdo en el tema agrario (El Colombiano)