The peace talks between the Colombian governemnt and the country’s largest left-wing guerrilla group, the FARC, on Monday resumed with agrarian issues again the main focus of negotiations.
The dialogues, which formally began in September, continue in Havana, Cuba while violence in Colombia between the two warring parties has escalated. Two Colombian policemen who were kidnapped in late January were released by the rebels on Friday while another Colombian soldier was let go on Saturday. Though the rebels banned kidnapping for economical and political reasons in February of last year, the guerrillas have again begun taking “prisoners of war” — a practice that has added tension to the negotiations in Cuba which have been criticized for moving too slowly. Since the FARC’s two-month long unilateral ceasefire ended on January 20, attacks between the rebels and government security forces have been reported almost daily.
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“Ceasefire prolongs the conflict, if what is accepted is not precisely for the benefit of the rapid attainment of peace,” said De la Calle.
The talks beginning on Monday will reportedly last for 11 days and again focus on rural development, a topic that has dominated negotiations so far.
“The construction of peace happens by the transformation of the land. We want to elevate the quality of life for the Colombians that live in rural areas, guaranteeing access to public services like health and education,” said the government’s lead negotiator. “One of the main variables is the farmers’ access to the land.”
Though both the FARC and the government agree on the importance of land reform to end the armed conflict, their positions differ regarding the nature of the reform.
Ivan Marquez, the FARC’s lead negotiator, demanded that cattle ranchers’ land be redistributed to the poor. Marquez pointed out that currently there are almost 100 million acres of land owned by cattle ranchers, half of which could be given to rural peasants and the displaced poor.
The government has said that it wants to redistribute land to the poor as well, but in the interest of protecting private property. The government has said that it wants to redistribute land illegally seized by drug traffickers and other armed groups.
‘La construcción de la paz pasa por la transformación del campo’: Humberto de la Calle (Presidencia de la República)