Colombian Government and the FARC-EP to Continue Peace Talks in Havana

On Wednesday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP), and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, resumed peace talks in Havana.

In the context of surging paramilitarism in Colombia, the new round will pursue new routes in discussing the remaining topics on the agenda.

Recent events, like the “armed strike” promoted by the Usuga clan, the slain of left-wing leaders, and denounces of the proliferation of paramilitarism, add tension to the ongoing peace negotiations.

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FARC-EP Deny Crisis in Peace Talks in Havana

The rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People''s Army (FARC-EP) denied today the suspension of peace talks that are being held in Havana since 2012 with the government of Juan Manuel Santos.

   Colombia: Right-Wing Plan to Sabotage Peace Accord Condemned

During a press conference in Palacio de las Convenciones in Havana, the guerrilla spokesman Carlos Antonio Lozada confirmed that the talks were not interrupted as recently reported Colombian media.

These newspapers based their information on an alleged statement written by FARC-EP leader, Timoleon Jimenez, who expresses concern about the lack of progress on the issue of the concentration zones (where the FARC-EP will demobilize in the event of a peace deal).

It was an internal circular issued by the commander in chief of the FARC-EP regarding the situation arising from the presentation of a document by the government delegation, which practically rejects the progress achieved in this issue concerning the ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities, Lozada explained.

He also acknowledged that, given the situation, the discussions on that issue in the technical subcommittee have been affected, but never stopped.

He condemned that the government delegation has tried to impose their vision, and insisted that the agreements must have bilateral nature.

He also pointed out that it is not a question of negotiating an unconditional surrender of the insurgency, but to reach a consensus in a peace process.

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Poll Reveals Increase in Support for Peace Process in Colombia

A poll conducted for Semana magazine found support growing inside Colombia for the ongoing peace process between the leftist rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government after the head of the guerrilla group, Timoleon Jimenez, and President Juan Manuel Santos signed an important agreement regarding transitional justice.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos-Napoleon Franco, found that 46 percent of respondents now felt optimistic about the peace talks, a dramatic increase over results in July that found only 29 percent felt optimistic.

Respondents who felt negatively about the peace talks still outpaced the optimists, however, with 52 percent feeling pessimistic, a drop from 69 percent in July.

The poll also found that 55 percent of the respondents felt that the whole country would win if a final deal was signed. About 28 percent thought the FARC would win, 8 percent said the government, and 9 percent said no one.

The approval ratings of President Santos had been steadily dropping over the last year but shot up to 47 percent with the news that the government was close to reaching a final deal with the FARC.

The poll served to reveal that his approval rating is closely linked with the progress of the peace negotiations. Santos was re-elected president in 2014 largely on the basis that he would secure a peace deal.

Both parties agreed to have a deal signed by late March 2016, though 58 percent felt that the deadline would not be met.

News of the historic meeting between FARC Commander Jimenez, better known as Timochenko, and President Santos reached 8 out of 10 Colombians, with 55 percent viewing the meeting as positive.

Nonetheless, there is still a lot of progress to be made in winning public support for a final deal. Despite the prevailing optimism at the negotiating table, 65 percent of respondents believe the talks could still be interrupted.

The FARC also have their work cut out for themselves as 67 percent believe they will not honor a final deal. Timochenko received a slight bump in public perception with 9 percent holding a favorable opinion of the rebel leader.

In a sign that the FARC is committed to peace, Timochenko tweeted last Wednesday that FARC combatants would no longer undergo combat training and would instead focus on political and cultural education.

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Pope Francis thanks Cuba for role in Colombian peace process

Pope Francis thanked Cuba for its contribution as a mediator in the peace talks between the Colombian government and the guerrilla FARC-EP, during the Mass he officiated this Sunday at the Havana´s Revolution Square.

His Holiness said it was his duty to direct his thoughts towards Colombia, since the South American country is living a moment of paramount importance, when Colombians are trying to live in peace after decades of armed conflict.

Francis said he trusts there is a solution to what he defined as a long night of pain and violence in Colombia.

He prayed for justice to be present in this process, along fraternity and honor, for peace to be lasting in Colombia, and thanked President Juan Manuel Santos for his support to the talks.

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Farc guerrillas hope to meet Pope Francis in Cuba

Ivan Marquez, chief negotiator for Farc, rrives for a new round of peace talks with Colombia's government accompanied by fellow Farc delegates Pastor Alape, right, and Carlos Antonio Lozada, centre

Colombia's largest guerrilla movement wants the Church to name a permanent delegate to their peace negotiations with the government

Representatives of Colombia’s largest guerrilla movement have asked to meet Pope Francis in Cuba in September and have requested the Catholic Church name a permanent delegate to their peace negotiations with the government.

Ivan Marquez, representing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym Farc, at the peace talks, told reporters on August 17, “We want to give a heartfelt greeting to Pope Francis. We hope to have this opportunity.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Cuba on September 19-22.

The guerrillas, who have been in conflict with the Colombian government for five decades, “want to move the peace process forward, particularly with the support of the Catholic world,” Marquez said. “The Church can offer all its experience to help reach a final agreement.”

Farc and the Colombian government began the peace talks in Cuba in late 2012, hoping to find a way to end the conflict, which has claimed some 220,000 lives.

After a meeting on August 17 in Havana with the president of the Colombian bishops’ conference, Marquez tweeted: “We are optimistic. We are promoting bilateral cease-fire and righteousness. (The) Church has renewed its commitment to peace in Colombia.”

Archbishop Luis Castro Quiroga of Tunja, president of the Colombian bishops’ conference, told reporters after his meeting with the Farc delegates that a final decision on a papal meeting in Cuba was up to the Pope, the Vatican and the Pope’s Cuban hosts.

Pope Francis, he said, has been following news of the peace talks, but would probably be interested in talking directly to those involved.

The Pope has said he would like to help promote peace, the archbishop said. The idea of the Pope naming a delegate to the talks could be one way to do that.

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FARC wants meeting with pope during Cuba visit

Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebels, now negotiating a peace deal in Havana, said Sunday they hope to meet with Pope Francis on his upcoming Cuba visit.

Pope Francis will visit Cuba September 19 to 22 as part of a tour that will later take him to the United States.

“We would like to do that. It would be something amazing,” the rebels’ spokesman “Ivan Marquez” said ahead of a break in the talks, which resume August 17.

“Just imagine the impact it would have to get Pope Francis’ support for this major joint effort for all Colombians — to achieve reconciliation after decades of conflict,” he added.

Asked if any request had formally been made to the Vatican, Marquez said he was “talking about something we aspire to do.”

Colombia is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.

And the pope — a native of Argentina and first pontiff to hail from Latin America — has a keen interest in issues related to poverty, Cuban emigrant, refugees and political prisoners.

Francis is also known to have played a key role in nudging the United States and Cuba toward reconciliation late last year, ending decades of estrangement dating back to the Cold War.

Colombia’s stop-start peace talks, ongoing since November 2012, have made progress on some important points but lack a final agreement.

The war in Colombia has left an estimated 260,000 dead and forced more than six million people from their homes.

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International Demonstration for Bilateral Truce in Colombia Summoned

Colombian politicians and defenders of human rights summoned to an international mobilization for next July 20 to demnand the ceasefire by all parties involved in a conflicto lasting over 50 years.

Through Twitter, Senator Ivan Cepeda and several activists called on citizens worldwide to join the initiative anywhere in the planet to demand a bilateral truce and the end of the armed conflict.

Victims of the confrontation, leaders of social, peasant organizations, parliament members, to advocate for silencing all firearms in order to minimize the victims among the civil population and generate confidence in the peace talks between the government and the insurgent FARC-EP forces.

Such a measure has been discarded by the Executive, who opts to talk with the insurgency amid conflagration, stand not understood by a part of the Colombian society.

The conflict increased in intensity since the middle of May after resuming bombardments by the regular forces against camps of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) and the suspension of the pause in combats decreed previously by the guerrilla movement.

While both delegations try to find a concerted way out of the war during the talks being held in Havana, inside the Andean country grows the violence and human displacement,

Simultaneously to the calls through social networks, in Bogota they organize a forum for peace, rallies and marches from Jujly 19 forward, in an effort to support the cycles of talks between the belligerant parts and claim for a total ceasefire.

The conflict has cost the lives of some 230 thousand persons along over half a century..

To establish a concertation table with the National Liberation Army, another of the active guerrilla groups in the nation, that is one of the steps pending to introduce in favor of distensión.

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