Rebel group FARC announced on Friday that they are suspending ongoing peace talks with Colombia’s government to study a proposal on a referendum sealing an eventual peace deal.
Rebel negotiator “Pablo Catatumbo” read a statement from Havana in which he claims the rebel group needs time to assess a bill proposed on Thursday by President Juan Manuel Santos, 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 peace delegation of the FARC-EP has decided to pause discussions at the negotiating table, to focus exclusively on the analysis of the scope of the government’s proposal,” said Catatumbo.
“This needs to be done in private within the organisation,” added the rebel negotiator.
The guerrilla group had previously proposed the creation of a national constituent assembly, which would allow the negotiators of the government and the guerrillas to come to agreements currently beyond constitutional law. This was rejected by the government.
“The FARC-EP proposed convening a national constituent assembly to be the sovereign who decides on the crucial issues of political, economic and social development of all Colombians,” explained Catatumbo.
“We also said that the constituent assembly, convened under the auspices of a large national political agreement would be the way to achieve a real peace treaty, fair and binding, highlighting our reconciliation, to govern the fate of the nation and channeled towards the summits of real democracy,” added the rebel.
Catatumbo thus criticized the government’s announcement, stating that no procedures in relation to the referendum were released by the government.
“In contrast, the government yesterday announced its decision to use a referendum as a mechanism of endorsement, with no mention of the democratic procedures that would need to be endorsed.”
Catatumbo also criticized the timing of the government’s announcement, which coincided with multi sector strikes against the government.
“This comes at a time when all corners of Colombia hear the screams of unhappy people protesting against the disastrous economic policies of the government,” added the rebel negotiator.
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.