Two alleged FARC guerrillas were killed in combat with the military on Wednesday, only days after the signing of a revised peace deal, according to the chief government negotiator.
The deaths come amid growing public security concerns over an ongoing suspension of the FARC’s demobilization and disarmament after the group’s initial peace deal with the government was rejected in a referendum on October 2.
“There was fighting in southern Bolivar, some guerrillas who are said to belong to the FARC have died. According to the Ministry of Defense, these guerrillas were quite quite far away from the pre-grouping zone … and there was an operation of criminal character,” government negotiator Humberto De la Calle said in an interview with Caracol Television.
Colombia’s government and the FARC began a bilateral ceasefire on August 29 but have since seen the first peace agreement rejected by the public.
The deaths come at a fragile time for Colombia’s peace process as they await the implementation of the second deal and the demobilization of the FARC rebels in specified zones.
De la Calle emphasized that he had already had the opportunity to speak with the chief negotiator of the Marxist group, “Ivan Marquez,” who said that the dead “were on their way to the pre-grouping zones.”
The deaths of the two rebels highlight the need to hasten the implementation of the agreement and begin the process of demobilizing the rebels as soon as possible, De la Calle said.
“There is a discrepancy in the narrative but the battle shows a lesson that the ceasefire itself is fragile.”
The chief negotiator added that “we can not linger if there is a new agreement, if we have a new opportunity to end the conflict in Colombia, we can not miss that opportunity.”
With guerrilla desertions already reported by the FARC, such a delay would increase the risk of guerrillas deserting the organization to join other groups or form new ones, effectively undoing the group’s demobilization and disarmament.
The successful implementation of the deal and the demobilization of the rebels would bring to an end a 52 year war through which as many as 260,000 people have been killed and millions displaced from their homes.