Victim representatives taking part in peace talks between Colombia’s government and the country’s largest rebel group FARC on Tuesday urged the warring parties to agree on a bilateral ceasefire.
“The war needs to end as soon as possible and there needs to be a bilateral ceasefire as it would generate a certain consensus in the country to move towards the horizon of peace,” said Camilo Villa whose father was killed by members of state-aligned paramilitary groups in 1992.
Villa, who was chosen spokesperson of the last of five groups of victims that traveled to Cuba where the peace talks are held, said the warring parties both need to show “humanitarian acts” that result in the “deescalation” of the armed conflict that has left hundreds dead since talks began in November 2012.
According to official estimates, a total of 7 million Colombians, 13% of the population, have been victimized by the war.
The group additionally said the government should promote “a change in mentality” in Colombia though a “pedagogy of peace with social justice” that includes all Colombians, also those who are skeptical of the ongoing talks.
“We believe that the peace process is the only way out of the war we have lived. It is important to start a major pedagogical exercise that allows Colombians to inform themselves on the scope of the agreements,” Villa said.
A group of victims that traveled to Cuba for the talks in September had also called for a ceasefire.
The latest group of victims said in a press release that they will “promote and support” a affirmative vote when Colombians are called to ratify the peace agreement in a referendum in the event one is reached.
Additionally, the victims said they wanted to contribute to the “reconstruction of historic memory” that’s been distorted by decades of war propaganda by the numerous actors in the 50-year-long conflict.
“We need historic truth about the causes of and those responsible for this war to find ways that allow a step towards reconciliation and guarantees of no repetition,” the victims said.
A commission has been investigating this truth since the beginning of the negotiation round dealing with victims. The independent commission seeks to clarify the levels of responsibility of criminalization of both the FARC and the government, both accused of tens of thousands of human rights violations.
A second commission, comprised of rebel leaders and military commanders, has been negotiating a bilateral ceasefire in the event the conflict comes to an end.
The FARC said Tuesday that it was studying the possibility to unilaterally declare a Christmas ceasefire as they have done in the two previous years of the talks.