The group of victim representatives taking part in peace talks between Colombia’s government and rebel group FARC on Wednesday urged both parties to agree to a bilateral ceasefire.
The announcement from the 12 victims challenges President Juan Manuel Santos, who until now has rejected calls by the FARC for a bilateral ceasefire to not give the rebels “an advantage.”
“In the past, the ceasefires were subject to eternal discussion and [the FARC] used them to strengthen and take in air and keep on going in their strategy of reaching power through violence. We will not allow this,” Santos said last year.
During the failed 1998-2002 peace talks between the FARC and the government of ex-president Andres Pastrana, a Switzerland-sized demilitarized zone was created in southern Colombia where talks where held. Following the talks’ collapse in 2002, the government accused the rebels of using the area to reorganize and expand.
“We demand a bilateral cease-fire because we really don’t want any more victims in Colombia,” said 28-year-old landmine victim Reinel Barbosa. “It’s the suffering of the civilian population that we want to avoid.”
The group of 12 arrived in Havana on Tuesday to contribute to the peace talks. They representatives are victims of crimes committed by the FARC, paramilitary forces and the Colombian military.
A previous group of 12 addressed the peace talks in the middle of August. In total 60 victims will be heard. They were chosen by the United Nations, the National University of Colombia and the Colombian Conference of Bishops.
The government and the FARC have been negotiating peace since late 2012 and have already agreed on rural reforms, drug trafficking and political participation. They are currently in the 28th, which will end Thursday, and are discussing reparations of victims.
- Victimas pidieron Cese al fuego (United Nations / National University)
- Colombian war victims urge ceasefire during peace talks (Reuters)