The FARC‘s five-month unilateral ceasefire between December and May caused major unrest among guerrilla units, one of the group’s top military commanders and peace negotiator told The Associated Press.
According to “Pastor Alape,” the nom-de-guerre of Felix Antonio Muñoz, unit commanders complained about them upholding a ceasefire while the military continued attacking rebel units.
“There was nonconformity among many guerrillas: ‘We are in a unilateral ceasefire and the enemy is advancing’, they said,” according to Alape.
“The rebel troops asked their commanders if they were going to allow the army to kill them without defending themselves,” said the FARC negotiator, whose group ended their ceasefire after a military air strike killed 27 rebels, including one peace negotiator.
“In order to show actions to generate confidence for the country, we decided on a unilateral ceasefire,” Alape told AP.
However, “the government is not making an accurate assessment of our commitment to peace” and used the truce to make military advances and attack the guerrillas, Alape said.
According to the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, a conflict analyst group, FARC units disobeyed orders handed down from Cuba and carried out attacks on twelve occasions in the five months of the truce while being attacked 78 times.
For the duration of the unilateral ceasefire between December 20 and May 22, the FARC repeatedly called for a bilateral ceasefire, warning that the ongoing army offensives put the truce in danger, but without result.
While President Juan Manuel Santos did agree to suspend airstrikes in March, he insisted on maintaining military ground offensives against the guerrilla group that has been at war with the state since 1964.
Months before, the president had promised to prioritize negotiations over a bilateral and indefinite ceasefire, a possibility he later called “unlikely” in spite of please by victim representatives and organizations from war zones to agree to one.
The unilateral truce really began falling apart when one of its units attacked an army unit in the southwestern Cauca province on April 14 and Santos revoked his decision to suspend air strikes.
The motive behind this attack has remained diffuse, especially after the arrest of the commanders of the army unit that was attacked and accusations by locals that the unit had been using them as human shield and members of the unit were misbehaving.
Following the deadly FARC attack, the subsequent air strike that killed 26, and the FARC lifting their truce, violence resumed on a level not seen since 2011, before the peace talks.
Guerrilla attacks left more than a million people without electricity for days, while more than a thousand were displaced within weeks after lifting the ceasefire due to combat between the army and the FARC, mainly in the west of the country.
Despite the recent uptick in violence, negotiations between the government and the FARC continue in Havana.
The rebels and the government have since the beginning of the talks in November 2012 signed partial agreements on political participation, rural reform and the FARC’s abandoning of drug trafficking.
Before an eventual deal to end more than 50 years of conflict is signed, the negotiating teams in Havana, Cuba will have to agree on two more agenda points: Victims and End of Conflict.
These negotiations have been slow as neither party seems to know how to adequately punish war crimes committed by both parties in the past five decades and how to compensate the more than 7 million victims of the violence.