President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday said that in principle, he is not against a committee trip to Havana in order to explain several key policy decisions to rebel group FARC, including the proposal for a referendum on an eventual peace accord.
Peace delegations from both the government and guerrillas have been in talks in Havana since November seeking an end to Colombia’s internal conflict. As of yet however, only one out of a five point agenda has been agreed upon.
Speaking at the opening of the Armed Forces hospital in Bogota, the head of state said that he was in favor of the trip if it meant negotiations could move forward at a greater pace.
“I am not opposed to this commission trip. We would have to clarify the conditions and when the trip would be,” explained the head of state.
“But everything that contributes to making important decisions at this time is to be welcomed so that we may move the process forward in the right direction and at the required speed,” added Santos.
Regarding a bill proposed to Congress in August, which seeks a change in the law allowing for a referendum on a potential peace agreement to be held simultaneously with the 2014 presidential or congressional elections, the head of state insisted that for the sake of the talks, Congress do not delay approval.
“We are at a pivotal point in the peace process. We are approaching the time when decisions need to be made,” insisted the President.
“To postpone only postpones crucial moments. There comes a time when you have to take the bull by the horns and make decisions, we are approaching that time,” added Santos.
The FARC however, rejected the proposed referendum, insisting that it was a ploy by the government to evade a direct popular vote on a final peace accord.
“What Santos wants is that the country votes ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to give the president extraordinary powers to issue decrees … aimed at putting the signed deals in Havana into effect,” argued FARC Supreme Commander Timochenko.
The rebel group proposed the creation of a constituent assembly, in order for a final agreement to be implemented in the country’s constitution. The government rejected this notion.
The head of state insisted that finding a way to endorse the final agreement is crucial to the success of the talks.
“If we do not find a system of endorsement, that will allow us to endorse the agreements and implement them, i.e make the process legal, then the process will suffer a major setback,” warned Santos.
Rebel group FARC and the government have been involved in peace talks since November in order to seek a negotiated end to the internal conflict.
While an accord has been reached regarding land reform, no agreements have been made on the issue of the FARC’s political participation, drug trafficking, the practicalities of the end of the armed conflict and the rights of the victims.
- Presidente afirma que no se opone a que comisión de partidos viaje a La Habana a explicar coyuntura electoral, ley estatutaria y referendo (President’s office)