Peace talks between Colombia’s government and the country’s largest rebel group the FARC start back up on Monday, initiating the first rounds of peace talks for 2014, as the negotiators continue to address problems surrounding drug production and trafficking.
This round of peace talks will run until January 23, coinciding with the expiration of a unilateral “Christmas” ceasefire declared by the rebels on December 15.
The government’s top-negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, minutes before leaving for Cuba to attend the talks, called for a responsible debate between the country’s political parties over the issue of peace with the rebel, calling for a “faithful discussion” on part of those who oppose the government’s efforts to make peace with the rebels.
“Our road map for 2014 is the same one that took us through lastand it is simple and concrete: work without rest to reach an agreement to end the conflict and open definitely the doors for all of us to achieve peace,” said De la Calle.
After reaching partial agreements on agrarian land restitution and political participation for the rebels in 2013, this round of talks will focus on solutions to Colombia’s problems with drug trafficking and production.
Coca cultivation and taxation of cocaine trafficking, along with ransom payments from kidnappings, have been a major source of income for the FARC’s armed rebellion against the government.
De la Calle has said that elimination of coca is an “objective not only important for Colombia, but also the international community.”
In particular, the United States has invested some $8 billion to fight illicit drug trafficking and coca cultivation, including a convert war against the country’s leftist guerrillas, as part of a controversial program known as Plan Colombia.
As part of the joint U.S.-Colombia military operations, millions of acres of Colombia countryside were sprayed with herbicides in an effort to combat coca cultivation. In December, the U.S. announced it was suspending its involvement in aerial fumigation after two pilots were shot down by rebel forces earlier in the year. Colombia’s military has announced its intention to continue anti-coca aerial spraying.
In Colombia the push for liberalization of the country’s drug laws has been expanding, with the FARC expressing support for legalizing and regulating the drug trade while President Santos has introduced drug decriminalization legislation.