The FARC and the government agreed Thursday to reach a bilateral ceasefire on December 16 despite major issues still scattered across the negotiations table.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos proposed Wednesday a January 1 deadline for the bilateral ceasefire between the state and the FARC guerrillas.
The President was immediately challenged by FARC delegate “Rodrigo Granda” to bump up the date two weeks earlier — right before Christmas.
“Christmas without fear. When you want to do something, do it in the best moment. The Christmas bonuses will begin December 16. Why wait for Jan. 1?” tweeted Granda Wednesday.
Santos immediately welcomed the acceleration of the ceasefire deadline, placing an immense amount of pressure on the FARC to demobilize before the new year — a relatively short amount of time to demobilize the some 8,000 on-the-ground guerrilla fighters.
The verbal agreements to end military operations between the two leaders add to the growing prospect of peace, and would be “like a Christmas and New Year’s gift to Colombians” who have been living in armed conflict since 1964, stated Santos. But the actual carrying out of the bilateral ceasefire seems much more complicated than the current public dialogues let on.
For example, Santos has implicated the need for certain conditions to be attached to the ceasefire, including the concentration of FARC forces in demobilized areas — areas where weapons would be relinquished and identities of the fighters registered.
“Why not December 16? We’re ready to go. However, it is important to have all of the points ready, negotiated, examined before the ceasefire can really occur. Because for example, if (the FARC) don’t concentrate then we can’t administrate the ceasefire with effectiveness because there are other elements of violence or groups,” tweeted the President Thursday.
However, the concentration of FARC troops represents an area of contention within the bilateral ceasefire process, as it is a procedure which according to the guerrillas previously resulted in the assassination of many of their members.
Consequentially Granda criticized Santos for attaching the conditions to the ceasefire: “We didn’t condition the government for anything in the unilateral ceasefire, we simply said we were going to do it and we have continued complying… You can’t say you’re going to do something and then condition things,” Granda stated in an interview with RCN radio.
As the date fast approaches, Colombians will be stringing up lights while the FARC and the government detangle their disagreements and attempt to fulfill the bilateral ceasefire by the end of the year.
Disarmament and peace during the Christmas season may have symbolic meaning, but the reality of achieving a bilateral ceasefire entails much more work before the Dec 16 deadline.