Cuba, Norway Say Colombia-FARC Peace 'Living Difficult Moments'

Recent developments, including the killings of former FARC fighters and arrest of its future representative Jesus Santrich, have put the process at stake.

The Cuban and Norwegian governments, which sponsored the talks and the subsequent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the former insurgent group FARC, expressed their concerns about the current state of the implementation of the peace process in the country amid the persecution and killing of former members of the former guerrilla group as well as the recent arrest of congressmen-elect Jesus Santrich.

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Colombia: FARC Warns Peace Deal at 'Most Critical Point' After Leader Arrest

“We express our concerns about the recent events related to the peace process,” said a statement signed by both governments, which also called on Colombian authorities to “guarantee the protection of the final agreement... and secure the strict observance of the deal, including the provisions related to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, designed to guarantee truth, justice, repairment and non-repetition.”

The Alternative Revolutionary Forces of the Common, the new political face of the FARC, back tracked on their presidential campaign as their leader Rodrigo Londoño “Timochenko” suffered from health issues and the party decided the government wasn't providing the party members with the ideal security conditions.

The situation escalated when Jesus Santrich, a former FARC commander, was arrested on drug trafficking charges by DEA's order, who accused him of taking part in a business network intending to export 10 tons of cocaine into the United States, and may now face extradition.

"With the capture of our comrade Jesus Santrich, the peace process is at its most critical point and is threatened to be a true failure," said Ivan Marquez, future representative and number two of the FARC, said at a press conference in Bogota last week. He also demanded Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos "keep his word" regarding the peace process.

Interpol's red alert accuse Santrich of participating in the drug trafficking network between June 2017 and April 2018. His defense filed an Habeas Corpus appeal but it was rejected by Bogota's Superior Tribunal.

Also, the activities of groups claiming to be FARC dissidents who oppose the peace agreement and have refused to demobilize, are being used to discredit the peace agreement despite FARC leadership distancing itself from them and rejecting their actions.

One of those groups, the Oliver Sinisterra Front led by Guacho, recently kidnapped and murdered three Ecuadorean journalists reporting on the violence situation on the border between both countries.

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Added to that, some in the Colombian government claim that the former insurgent group wasn't honest about their assets and accused it of running a money laundering chain of stores, which sparked riots and looting in several cities of Colombia. FARC leadership flatly reject such accusations and said they have made all their assets available and have welcomed any government audits.

According to the communique by Cuba and Norway, the peace process is “living difficult moments,” and reminded that “is important that the involved parties and the international community reaffirm their support to the process and the enforcing and observance of the agreement.”

They also recommended speeding up the actions aimed at guaranteeing the full reintegration and reincorporation of FARC's former fighters into civil society and reiterated their compromise to reach a stable and lasting peace in Colombia.

Gloria Ospina, director of the Colombia in Peace Fund, was dismissed from office on April 9 after being accused of irregularities in managing the economic resources provided by the international community for the peace process.

The peace process has been heavily politicized and is one of the main discussion points for all candidates in the May 27 presidential elections. Most of them support the continuance of the process, including leftist Gustavo Petro, but the right-wing protegee of Alvaro Uribe, Ivan Duque, has said the agreement needs serious restructuring.

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FARC Leader to Run as 2018 Presidential Candidate

Londoño, known as Timochenko, was nominated as the political group's 2018 presidential candidate by a majority vote.

The Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons has announced Rodrigo Londoño, popularly known as Timochenko and former leader of the guerrilla group, as their candidate in the 2018 Colombian presidential election as the group awaits the legalization of its newly established political party by Colombia's National Electoral Council, according to Caracol Radio.

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Until this process is complete, the FARC will be unable to advance with the formal registration of their presidential candidate and congress people.

The decision to nominate Timochenko was made in a majority vote by FARC members, despite their belief that his chances of reaching the presidential palace are minimal.

However, they expressed their desire to have a candidate run in next year's presidential election, forming political coalitions in the process that would eventually run a candidate with greater chances of winning in future campaigns. FARC members noted that this would entail a transitional government aimed at consolidating peace throughout the country.

FARC representatives also stated that in the coming days they will officially announce Pablo Catatumbo, Ivan Marquez and other members who will run for congressional seats, according to Caracol Radio.

RELATED: FARC Leader Timochenko Recovering Well in Cuba

With Timochenko at its head, the FARC faces many obstacles as it attempts to transform from a guerrilla group into a political party, with members pointing to the lack of will shown by the administration of Juan Manuel Santos to carry out true peace as social leaders and FARC members continue to be targeted by paramilitary forces and the Colombian military.

However, the former guerrilla leader said he would uphold his commitment to peace and signaled he would work closely with the two commissions set up in order to re-structure the party.

“Just like all of you, what motivates me is that the (peace) process moves forward,” he reiterated.

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Former FARC Members Arrive in Cuba for Medical Training

The peace process in Colombia also created a unique opportunity for students to learn more from the Cuban health system, which is praised worldwide.

Some 200 young Colombians — mostly former FARC members and campesinos — arrived in Cuba to begin their studies at the Latin American School of Medicine as part of the offer made by Cuba after the peace accord between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

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The Cuban government is set to grant 1,000 annual scholarships in the next five years for students from Colombia, which will include aspiring doctors that had to postpone their training due to the armed conflict of more than 50 years in their country.

The medical students arrived at Jose Martí International Airport where they were received by the dean of ELAM Antonio Lopez. Authorities say this is a contribution of the Cuban government to the implementation process of the peace deal which was negotiated and reached in Havana.

"The opportunity to be in Cuba is great because the health system model developed here is to serve the human being, always trying to prevent diseases and that seems fantastic," Duerney Perez, a young student told Prensa Latina.

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Student doctors will be trained in accordance with the Cuban family medicine model so that they may return to Colombia once they've graduated to improve and fortify primary health care for the underserved.

Between July 19 and Aug. 16, according to Colombia Informa, the student beneficiaries — residing in Transitional Standardization Zones or in the countryside — were chosen to begin medical study in September.

"I come from the department of Caqueta, very affected by the violence that the war created," Perez said.

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Cuba Supports Agreement between Government and ELN in Colombia

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported the agreement reached on Monday between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), as a result of talks held in recent months.

In a statement about the talks, in which Cuba participated as Guarantor, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed last night that this step will allow to reach and start the public table talks between the two sides in Quito, Ecuador, on October 27, 2016.

This represents a new step forward in the efforts to achieve peace in Colombia.

The two sides also reaffirmed that Cuba is one of the countries that will act as Guarantor and Headquarters in that negotiation table.

In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated Cuba's firm commitment to the end of the armed conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace in Colombia.

In this context, it will continue contributing as much as possible, at the request of the two sides, to the achievement of a final agreement between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army.

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FARC and Colombian Government Announce Final Peace Accord

In a landmark moment in Colombia's history, the peace delegations of the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the country's Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia gathered Wednesday evening to announce the end of negotiations and a final peace accord in Havana, Cuba, after nearly four years of negotiations between the two sides of the conflict.

        

The parties have spent the last several days reviewing the final text, which will be put to a popular vote on October 2.

"Now the battle of ideas can start," the FARC-EP's representative Ivan Marquez said, adding that the final deal marks a new chapter in Colombia's history. "The peace deal is a point of departure—not of closure—toward the social transformations demanded by the masses."

Government representative Humberto de la Calle said, "I am certain now that this is the best agreement possible. But the Colombians will judge."

President Santos insisted that the text of the final agreement was “definitive,” and could not be modified.

“From the beginning, one principle ruled the negotiations: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Today, at last we can say that everything has been agreed,” he added.

The final deal will mark the end of 52 years of armed internal conflict between government forces and the FARC-EP, founded in 1964 based on Marxist ideals of agrarian reform, rights for rural communities and social justice. The conflict is the longest-running civil war in Latin America.

"Peace," Cuban peace guarantor Rodolfo Benitez noted, "is guaranteed as a right of Colombian citizens in their nation's constitution, something that has eluded the South American nation for the last five decades.

"The sum of the partial agreements reached so far are contributing to compliance with the rights and duties guaranteed by the Constitution," said Benitez, "including the fundamental rights of campesinos, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities.

"The final deal," he continued, "means to address the root causes of the conflict: land, property, exclusion of campesinos, affecting especially women and children."

Dag Nylander, Norway's peace guarantor added, "We don't want one more victim in Colombia. A new chapter of Colombia's history is opened," with the final deal allowing for "more social inclusion, especially of those who have been excluded and historically more affected by the conflict."

The final agreement announced Wednesday calls for meaningful agrarian reform to address inequality in poor, rural areas. It calls for new political forces to address the issues that initially led the FARC-EP to take up arms, and also guarantees the safety of the rebels after they put down those arms to participate in politics.

The agreement calls for protection of human rights activists and labor organizers who have been targeted by right-wing paramilitaries; alternatives to illicit drug production; reparations for victims of violence on all sides; and a commission made up of the Colombian state, the FARC-EP, alongside the United Nations to monitor the accord's implementation.   

The announcement brought an end to nearly four years of negotiations in Havana, launched in 2012. FARC-EP leaders will now take the agreement back to its camps to share the information with its ranks, which could be the last such FARC-EP conference with armed rebels before the group transitions into a non-military political movement in accordance with the peace deal.

Negotiators have already reached and announced landmark partial agreements related to five central matters: political participation, end of the conflict, transitional justice, agrarian reform, and crop substitution for illicit coca crops. The announcement of a bilateral ceasefire deal on June 23 was widely celebrated by Colombians.

The vote on the final peace agreement is expected to take place on Oct. 2 and electoral authorities will determine whether public funds will finance the campaigns in favor and against the peace deal.

In order to pass, a majority of 4.5 million Colombian voters—a 13 percent participation threshold—need to vote “Yes” in the plebiscite.       

Far-right former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, whose presidency saw record levels of paramilitary activity, human rights violations and displacements, has been pushing for a "No" vote.

According to a recent Gallup poll, of the half of the population that had made up its mind on how they would vote, 67.5 percent were ready to vote in favor of ratifying the final peace deal, while 32.5 percent said they would vote against it.

The FARC-EP has said that the putting down of arms is the beginning of peace and a process of reconciliation to unite “two Colombias,” of which it represents the marginalized groups that have suffered most under the armed conflict.

Colombia's over five-decade civil war has killed over 220,000 victims and uprooted some 6.3 million people, making it home to the second largest population of internally displaced peoples in the world after Syria.

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Statement by President Raul Castro Ruz in Peace Talks

Statement by President of the Council of States and Ministers of the Republic Of Cuba, Raúl Castro Ruz in the ceremony at the peace talks between the government of Colombia and FARC-EP on the occasion of the announcement of the cease fire and the bilateral and definitive end of hostilities, laying down of weapons and guarantees of security. Havana, June 23, 2016.

H.E. Mr. Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of the Republic of Colombia;

Commander Timoleón Jiménez, Chief of Staff of the FARC-EP;

H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General;

Esteemed Borge Brende, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway, a guarantor country at the talks table;

Esteemed Michel Bachelet, President of the Republic of Chile, an accompanying country at the talks table;

Esteemed Nicolás Maduro, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, an accompanying country at the talks table;

Esteemed Danilo Medina, President of the Dominican Republic and President pro Tempore of CELAC;

Esteemed Salvador Sánchez, President of the Republic of El Salvador;

Esteemed Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico;

Distinguished participants and guests:

On November 19, 2012, the Table Talks between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army started to work in Havana.

In those days, there were quite a few who predicted a failure, as had previously occurred in Colombia in former peace processes. However, the transcendental agreements that the Peace Talks Table has announced today places us closer than ever before to the end of the armed conflict that has been suffered for more than five by the brother people of Colombia.

The decision of the Parties to sign today the agreements on the cease fire and the end of bilateral hostilities, the laying down of weapons and security guarantees is a decisive step forward. The peace process has reached a point of no return.

Pace will be a victory for the entire Colombia, but also a victory for all of Our America. The short history of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) recorded a major landmark, which was the proclamation of this region as a Zone of Peace. The end of the armed conflict in Colombia will be a new evidence of the rock-solid commitment of our peoples against the use and the threat of use of force and in favor of the peaceful settlement of controversies. In the face of differences, dialogue is of the essence. In the face of challenges concerted actions should prevail.

The achievement of peace in Colombia will also represent a hope for millions of persons in the planet, whose main concern continues to be the human survival in a world shaken by violence and wars.

Peace is not a utopia; it is a legitimate right of every human being and of all peoples. It is a fundamental condition for the enjoyment of all human rights, particularly the supreme right to life.

Esteemed participants and guests:

The commitment of the Cuban people and government with peace in Colombia has been and will be permanent, and we will remain faithful to Martí’s legacy: “Homeland is Humanity.”

Cuba, in its condition as guarantor and host of these talks, will continue to offer all necessary facilities and contribute to the extent of its possibilities to the end of the conflict, with modesty, discretion and a profound respect for the positions of both Parties.

I would like to conclude by congratulating the government of Colombia and FARC-EP. Both Parties have worked tirelessly in a serious and committed way, to achieve the crucial progress announced today.

There are still important and difficult questions which remain pending at the Peace Talks Table, but we feel optimistic. We are more convinced than ever that Peace will be the future of Colombia.

Thank you, very much.

  • Published in Cuba

Historical Agreement between Colombian Government and FARC-EP

Colombian congressman Ivan Cepeda regarded Wednesday the agreement on the bilateral cease of fire between the Colombian government and the rebel forces of the Colombia Armed Revolutionary Forces-People''s Army (FARC-EP).

"This is a trascendental decision to end up with a part of the old conflict in Colombia, the only in the western hemisphere, and it remains to initiate conversations with the ELN", Cepeda commented to Prensa Latina.

This Wednesday governmental spokesmen and of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) informed to the public opinion that they reached an agreement to silence all the guns and begin the laydown of weapons or disarmament of these insurgent groups.

The joint communique spread in the Cuban capital adds that both delegations managed to conciliate positions also on the safety guarantees for now fighting during the stage of demobilization and reinstatement to the civil life, as well as concerning the clash to criminal organizations.

"It is the moment to begin a new way and remembering a phrase of writer Gabriel García Márquez he said: also it is a time of the second opportunity on the ground for Colombia," the legislator emphasized for the Alternative Democratic Pole, major national left convergence.

The senator, one of the promoters of the conversations with the rebellion, underlined that such a result is a fruit of the efforts not only of the Government and of this rebel movement, but of many sectors of the society, sympathizers with the peace process, as well as of the support of the international community.

After being grateful for the world solidarity, Cepeda emphasized the contribution of Cuba and Norway, guarantors of the dialogues, and of Chile and Venezuela, accompanists of the same ones.

Since 2012 representatives of the Colombian Executive and of the FARC-EP converse in Cuba to find a compound solution in the long conflagration; in the course of these years they achieved consensuses, also, in the topics of integral rural reform, political participation, combat against the illicit traffic of drugs and victims.

It remains now to close subpoints dependent on previous sections and elucidate the related thing to the implementation, cross-check and refrendación of the agreed thing, the sixth topic of the agenda.

To install the table of formal meetings with the National Liberation Army (ELN), also involved in the contest, is another of the steps to execute to conquer a finished peace, thinks Cepeda.

The complete content of the recent agreements will be revealed tomorrow in an event in Havana, at which there will be the presence of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, several of his Latin-American counterparts and personalities as the Secretary-General of United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

  • Published in Cuba

Colombia-FARC Peace Talks Just Days Away from Cease-fire Deal

After more than three years of negotiations with the Colombian government, FARC rebels are hopeful that a final bilateral cease-fire deal will be sealed in the “coming days” after making crucial progress in the peace talks in Havana, Cuba, leaders announced Sunday. 

“We have had important advances,” said FARC commander Carlos Antonio Lozada in a press conference on Sunday. “We are working with respect to the cease-fire and specifically on the characteristic of the encampment areas.”

The question of the terms of the bilateral cease-fire has been a key issue on the agenda in the final stages of the negotiations and a key piece of the puzzle to put in place in order to make way for a definitive end to 50 years of internal armed conflict.

Lozada also stressed that the issue of the FARC disarmament, another outstanding item on the peace agenda, will require commitments from both sides of the negotiating table.

“It must be a bilateral agreement in which both the state and the FARC take on commitments in the area of laying down of arms, understanding that at no point are we proposing that the state should disarm,” the commander added.

The statements come after FARC leader Timochenko penned an open letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reaffirming the group's desire to disarm and achieve peace, in response to recent misleading statements in the media.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has repeatedly argued that putting an end to paramilitary activity in the country is key to safeguarding a lasting peace deal and offering guarantees to FARC rebels in their process of disarming and reintegrating into society. But as the peace deal nears, paramilitary violence has seen a sharp resurgence in recent months.

The rebel commander also reiterated the group’s demand that jailed FARC leader Simon Trinidad, serving a 60 year sentence in a super maximum-security prison in Colorado, be released in the name of “reuning all Colombians that one way or another have been involved in the conflict” through the signing of the peace deal.

FARC and government negotiators missed the self-imposed deadline to finalize a peace agreement by March 23, but both sides of the conflict have expressed confidence that ending the conflict is just around the corner.

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