Colombia’s government and the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, should come up with “intelligent solutions” regarding the rebels’ possible disarmament, said one of the guerrillas’ negotiators Thursday.
In a radio interview with national Colombian radio station La FM, rebel negotiator “Pablo Catatumbo” stated that “intelligent solutions” need to be found to the issue of the disarmament of the FARC, which he confirmed had been brought up at the peace talks currently going on in Havana, Cuba.
“There exist various examples of peace processes around the world which have seen an intelligent management of this point. The problem is not the weapons but the people firing them” said Catatumbo, before suggesting that Colombia’s armed forces should also have to “make changes in this sense.”
“We have to remember that we are in a bilateral conversation and you have to ask yourself if the disarmament is only for one of the sides or if the other side has also contemplated the possibility” stated the rebel leader, who has been present at the negotiations for a little over a month.
Catatumbo also cast doubt over guerrillas’ willingness to accept jail terms; “Did anyone spend even a day in jail for the 300,000 deaths in ’48, ’53 or ’64?” he said, referring to the bloody period known as “La Violencia” which saw Colombia’s government fall into all out civil war and which led to the beginning of Colombia’s armed conflict. “This is something that needs to be considered and we must examine all the elements which led to the beginning of this war” he said.
During the interview, Catatumbo elaborated on the FARC’s consideration of several of the issues currently under negotiation with the government, stating that the peace process has the complete support of the guerrilla forces, that they are definitively interested in political participation after an agreement has been reached, and that the rebels would be in favor of the reelection of President Santos, if it allows continuity in the peace process.
Catatumbo concluded that the latest negotiations with the government have been “satisfactory” and confirmed that the peace delegation expects to come to an agreement on agrarian reform, the first point on the agenda, by Sunday.
The negotiators have spent the past six months in formal talks on agrarian reforms. Additionally, regional forums have been organized to allow civilians or social organizations to contribute proposals related to agriculture and land reform.
However, despite expressed optimism by both sides of the table, the negotiators have yet to find an agreement on the future of Colombia’s impoverished and war-torn rural areas, and have yet to proceed to the second point on the agenda, the political participation of the FARC and guarantees for political opposition.
While a vast majority of Colombians is in favor of a negotiated end of the conflict, there is strong opposition too; Critics have said the talks are held under unfavorable conditions for the government, fearing that too many compromises must be made to the FARC in order to come to an agreement.
The government has given the FARC until the end of the year to come to an agreement which will be the official end of the armed conflict. The FARC in return said that they will not be rushed and called for patience.
If successful, the conflict between the FARC and the government that’s been fought since 1964 will come to an end and the rebel group will be taken off the government’s terrorist organization’s list. However, it would not mean the absolute end to the armed conflict as the country’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, has not yet begun formal peace talks. Additionally, groups formed from the demobilized paramilitary umbrella organization AUC continue to commit acts of political violence.