Colombia’s Prosecutor General, Eduardo Montealegre, on Thursday said that politicians who traveled to Havana to meet with rebel group FARC without government authorization have committed no crime.
In an effort to discuss a bill President Juan Manuel Santos introduced in August that would put any agreement reached between the FARC and his government’s negotiators on a ballot referendum in the upcoming national elections, the rebels extended an invitation to congressional leaders to meet in Havana.
While Santos has not dismissed the notion, he has insisted that Colombian congressmen will only travel to Havana in order to meet with rebel group FARC when the government deems it appropriate.
But in late September, the Inspector General’s office became aware of several public officials who traveled to Havana without the permission of the government, insisting that those officials will be investigated. The Inspector General went as far as to liken the offence to those embroiled in the parapolitics scandal, in which thousands of congressmen and other politicians have been linked to the AUC, a now defunct paramilitary group responsible for numerous human rights abuses.
But the Prosecutor General disagrees.
“It is absurd to think that to travel to Havana without the permission of the government is a crime and warrants a disciplinary,” said Montealegre. “Arrest warrants against the FARC negotiators in Havana are suspended and discussions were on a neutral territory, outside of the country and therefore have a different connotation.”
The government and rebel group FARC 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.