Colombian Senator: FARC-EP Disarmament Unprecedented

Bogota, Feb 1 (Prensa Latina) Colombian senator Ivan Cepeda has described as unprecedented the massive arrival of the FARC-EP, the country's largest guerrilla group, to the transition points and zones to put down weapons, displacement that continue today.

Speaking to the 'Semana en Vivo' program, the congressman stated that the transfer of this group -in demobilization phase- to stages of 14 departments is the result of a long negotiation period and demonstrates the strict compliance of the acquired commitments.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) have passed all tests and are arriving in the places where the adaptation works have been making progress, also to others in which there is no water or electricity; in most cases the guerrillas are undertaking works to turn them into habitable zones, he insisted.

According to Sergio Jaramillo, High Commissioner for Peace, he should be in the transition points and zones -the latter smaller than the former- about 6,300 members of the rebel group to disarm and prepare for reintegration into civilian life.

The movements of troops began on Saturday, January 28th, from the pregroup stages to the 26 transition points and areas with accompanying observers of the tripartite supervisory mechanism.

This group is made up of spokesmen of the government, FARC-EP and a political mission coordinated and funded by the United Nations.

President Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleon Jimenez, top leader of that organization, signed on November 24th the definitive agreement to end the long confrontation between both parties.

The challenge now is to implement everything agreed to ensure the success of the so-called post-conflict.

  • Published in World

Colombian Government Ready to Talk with ELN for Complete Peace

Bogota, Jan 12 (Prensa Latina) The Colombian government has expressed its willingness to begin formal talks with the ELN with the promptness and seriousness demanded by the country, an option that both sides are exploring in Ecuador since today.

Responding to a letter sent by supporters of the negotiations with that insurgent movement, the head of the government spokesmen, Juan Camilo Restrepo, ratified the willingness of dialogue of the current administration, but insisted on the release of former congressman, Odin Sanchez, who is in the hands of that group.

According to the minister, both delegations of spokesmen are preparing in the Ecuadorian capital the joint meeting that could happen tomorrow, Colombian news reports said.

We arrived in Ecuador to continue the exploratory phase, we are convinced to make every effort to start this dialogue with the seriousness and promptness demanded by the country, Restrepo said in a statement released here.

The Executive and the National Liberation Army (ELN) announced in Caracas on March 30 their decision to begin such rounds of meetings, but there is no timetable for the meetings up to now.

This is a less numerous guerrilla than the FARC-EP but have been equally active more than 50 years ago.

Shortly after the announcement carried out in Venezuela, President Juan Manuel Santos conditioned the establishment of that other negotiation table for Sanchez' release, while the rebel organization rejects any conditioning prior to the talks.

Such stances keep the talks at a standstill despite calls from religious people, politicians, victims and other figures of the national stage to open the planned appointments and achieve a full detente scenario after the signing of the peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP), which occurred on November 24.

  • Published in World

Colombian Guerrilla Group Reiterates Commitment to Peace

The group has denounced what it sees as unilaterally imposed conditions hindering the peace process, but it is willing to forge ahead with dialogue.

The long-winded Colombian peace process, happening since January 2014, may be a step closer to fruition, after the National Liberation Army reiterated their commitment to peace and dialogue with the national government of Juan Manuel Santos.

“Despite the difficult climate and conditions which impede the peace process, we will promptly arrive to the appointment between our two delegations,” the group said in an end-of-year communiqué posted on their Twitter account. “We hope that by then, the government will have officially appointed its delegation.”

RELATED: Colombia Govt-ELN Peace Talks to Start in January

But while the guerrilla group – second to the more well-known Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – is willing to attend the Jan. 10 meeting in Quito, Ecuador, it denounced what it sees as the government's unilaterally imposed conditions.

Referring to the government’s recent abrupt decision to postpone the Oct. 27 talks, the group took the chance to remind Santos that mutual respect is a “golden rule for peace.”

“President Santos forgets that we are two parties, that we act according to what has been agreed upon and that among the rules established by our common agreement, there is one that says: ‘Agree and honor it, golden rule for peace,’” read the statement.

President Juan Manuel Santos canceled that meeting on the grounds that the ELN failed to confirm the release of a detainee, former lawmaker Odin Sanchez, held since April. The group holds that this demand “was not part of the agreements” they had come to on Oct. 6, which would have seen each side liberating prisoners on humanitarian grounds as the first rounds of negotiations began. But that did not happen.

“These facts show us the regime’s arrogance and lack of true commitment to peace,” the group wrote. They also denounced what they considered the “government’s lack of action” in front of the “systemic killing of popular and social leaders, Human Rights defenders…(by) paramilitary bands.”

Earlier this month, the two parties agreed to a prisoner release that has yet to happen, leading rebel leader Israel Ramirez, better known by his alias Pablo Beltran, to assure that on "the same day our two are pardoned, Mr. Sanchez will be free."

RELATED: Prisoner Swap Key to Boosting Colombia Peace Talks: ELN Leader

"We agreed they will happen simultaneously to eliminate mutual distrust," he added.

The ELN concluded by praising the role of the six guarantor states, which include Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba, Norway, Chile and Brazil, and thanking the “sister nation of Ecuador” for hosting the talks.

“Our efforts for peace in Colombia continue, which is why we ask the six guarantor states and their representatives at the dialogue table, to continue to accompany us and to offer their professional efforts, worthy of note," the statement read.

This all comes about a month after President Santos signed a historic, definitive peace deal with FARC.

  • Published in World

Venezuela 'Concerned' By Colombian Talks to Join NATO

Venezuela argues that this violates the principles of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

Venezuela expressed “deep concern” over an announcement made by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that he has begun the final discussions for his country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

RELATED: Colombian Attorney General Says NATO Deal 'Unconstitutional'

In an official statement, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the announcement "breaks” a p made in 2010 to by Santos to late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to not join the military alliance.

"The Venezuelan government strongly rejects the attempt to introduce external organizations with nuclear capability into our region, whose past and recent actions claim the policy of war," the statement from Rodriguez said.

Venezuela argues that this would violate the principles of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, or NAM, which prohibits its members to form part of international military alliances.

"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will use all diplomatic and political mechanisms to prevent war organizations with a pernicious record of war and violence in the world from disturbing the peace of our region," Rodriguez added.

Colombia, who chaired the NAM between 1995 and 1998, joined the movement as an observer in 1974 before becoming a permanent member in 1983 after the 7th Summit held in New Delhi. During its time as the head of the bloc, the South American nation defended the movement and promoted its modernization and strengthening.

During his Christmas speech to the army on Friday, Santos welcomed NATO's approval for the start of talks, which he considered "an acknowledgment of the country's military and police forces."

RELATED: NATO Deploys Thousands More Troops on Russian Border

The peace nobel laureate says the deal with NATO will be only for information exchange and to increase the fight against transnational crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.

NATO is the world’s largest intergovernmental military alliance, formed during the height of the Cold War to guard members states against purported “Soviet expansionism.” The pact currently has 28 member states across Europe, North America, as well as Turkey.

  • Published in World

Colombian Congress to Discuss Amnesty Law, Key for FARC-EP

Bogota, Dec 19 (Prensa Latina) The Colombian Congress will today discuss the amnesty law linked with the peace process between the Government and FARC-EP insurgents.

The discussions will be shorter than usual after the Constitutional Court authorized the use of a fast track mechanism.

The amnesty law will give a legal pardon to members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People's Army (FARC-EP), who did not commit serious crimes in the context of the internal conflict.

According to analysts, its approval would be a stimulus for other core processes such as the disarmament of members of the guerrilla group, the largest in the country.

On November 24th, President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of FARC-EP, Timoleón Jiménez, signed a conclusive peace agreement after nearly four years of talks in Cuba.

In the coming days, the Colombian parliament will examine other initiatives such as one aimed at facilitating the creation of a political party, once the disarmament is over.

The interior minister, Juan Fernando Cristo, has announced that a law will be proposed to ensure the participation of the FARC-EP in the debates planned within the Senate and the House of Representatives with the objective of implementing the consensus signed by Santos and Jiménez.

  • Published in World

Pope Francis Meets President Santos and Uribe in the Vatican

Bogota, Dec 16 (Prensa Latina) Pope Francis met Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and former president Alvaro Uribe today, who have been distanced due to their disagreement over the peace process with the FARC-EP, according to Colombian news reports.

Although there have been no details of the meeting, the main Colombian newspapers and radio stations have published images of the moment.

In successive messages His Holiness called on Colombians to persevere in the search for peace and national reconciliation.

Uribe, who heads the right-wing Democratic Center Party (CD), is one of the most vocal critics of Santos' administration and an outspoken opponent of negotiations with the FARC-EP.

Along with other spokespersons of the CD, he led the campaign for the negative vote in the October referendum, when most voters rejected the first peace agreement between the government and the rebel group.

Negotiators returned to the table and finalized a conclusive treaty, which was signed on November 24th and ratified by the Congress of the Republic; the ex-president also opposes this agreement.

On Monday parliamentarians will discuss the draft amnesty law, considered key to the members of this insurgent group, the largest in the nation.

  • Published in World

FARC and Santos Disagree over When Peace Actually Begins

The FARC is ready and willing to demobilize its fighters but the leadership wants guarantees they won't be arrested or killed first.

The Colombian Congress has ratified the peace agreement between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, but demobilization of rebels has yet to begin over an ongoing disagreement over what the accord calls “D-Day,” which is when the combatants are to formally begin gathering in demobilization zones.

RELATED: Colombia Congress Ratifies FARC Peace Deal

Colombian President Santos remarked that Thursday marked “the first day of peace” and his government expected demobilization to begin soon. The accord specifies that five days after “D-Day” the rebel combatants are expected to begin reporting to the “concentration zones” where the demobilization process will take place.

However, FARC leader and peace negotiator Pastor Alape said “D-Day” has not yet been determined and rebels won't moving to the concentration zones until security can be guaranteed. Colombia has been recently experiencing a spike in killings of leftist activists and the FARC leadership is concerned that their members will be assassinated.

The FARC is also concerned that they will face arrest for their rebellion as an amnesty law has not yet been passed by Congress. The Congress must also approve a series of other laws that would allow for the concrete implementation of the historic peace agreement.

The rebels want these laws to be approved quickly through a “fast track” mechanism before they begin moving to the concentration zones.

Colombia's Constitutional Court is expected to rule Friday regarding the legality of the fast track process. This process, which would allowed for fewer rounds of voting, was originally tied to a successful plebiscite result but Colombian narrowly rejected the peace agreement in a vote. The updated peace agreement was not put to vote and was approved directly by Congress.

RELATED: What's New About Colombia's 2nd FARC-Govt Peace Deal?

If the Constitutional Court says the fast track is not valid, then the series of laws that will allow for the implementation must go through the regular legislative process, which could take many months, further delaying the demobilization of combatants.

The urgency for demobilization stems from the fact that the bilateral cease-fire is fragile, as two FARC rebels were recently gunned-down by state security forces.

According to a report by the Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA, there is also concern that too much idle time may lead to desertions by FARC rebels. The FARC also controls or holds influence over many areas, and the cease-fire has meant a reduced presence by rebels creating a vacuum that may be filled by other armed actors.

  • Published in World

Colombia Congress Ratifies FARC Peace Deal, Triggers Next Steps

Colombia's largest rebel group, the FARC, will now begin the process of laying down its arms as the peace deal takes effect.

The Colombian House of Representatives unanimously ratified the historic peace deal between the government and the FARC rebel group on Wednesday after the Senate did the same Tuesday, triggering the implementation of the agreement that brings an end to over half a century of civil war in the South American country.

RELATED: Key to Peace Now Lies in Hands of Colombia's Polarized Congress

The agreement was approved in the 166-seat lower house of Congress by 130 votes in favor and zero against. Votes were cast after a lengthy day-long session that saw both supporters and detractors of the breakthrough peace deal, updated after a defeat at the polls in an Oct. 2 plebiscite, make their case for a "Yes" or "No" vote. The decision came a day after the Senate also passed the deal 75-0.

Both the Senate and the lower house approved the plan despite the vocal protests from Senator and former far-right President Alvaro Uribe, who led the "No" forces during the plebiscite, and who had called his supporters to take to the streets in opposition to the latest deal, despite the fact that negotiators made changes changes to 56 of the 57 points the "No" side contested.

While Uribe and his fellow Center Democratic Party senators did not boycott the debate in either House as they had earlier threatened, they boycotted the vote itself in both cases, walking out just minutes before voting took place. During the sessions they also displayed signs reading "No Al Conejo," meaning "No to the Rabbit." In Colombia, the term "rabbit-making" means cheating and is often used to refer to people who leave a restaurant without paying. Uribe has staunchly maintained that the peace deal is too lenient on the FARC.

Both the Senate and lower house votes easily passed the vote thresholds needed to approve the deal, and the margin bestows greater legitimacy on the deal, analysts have argued. The ratification allows the peace deal to enter in force and triggers a 180-period — monitored by the United Nations — for FARC rebels to move to transition camps and begin the process of laying down their arms and preparing to reintegrate into Colombian society.

RELATED: Colombian Women Fight Gender Violence, Celebrate Peace With Art

The approval comes less than a week after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, formally signed the deal in Bogota last Thursday.

A previous peace agreement was narrowly defeated by less than half a percentage point in a national plebiscite on Oct. 2. Within weeks of the plebiscite, the government of Colombia and FARC leaders revised the original plan, making 50 changes while keeping foundational cornerstones of the deal intact.

During the debate in the Senate, High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo likened the peace deal to a miracle. “To achieve an agreement with the FARC after 50 years of war in an agreement which really gets to the roots of the violence, the conditions that have provoked the violence, this guarantees an end to that violence, and it’s nothing less than a miracle,” said Jaramillo during the opening of Tuesday’s debate.

The peace deal, negotiated over the past four years in Havana, Cuba, brings to an end the longest and bloodiest civil war in Latin America, which has left some 7 million people displaced, more than 260,000 dead, at least 79,000 disappeared and 30,000 kidnapped since 1958.

On Dec.10, Santos will accept the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. FARC leader Timochenko was notably left out of any formal recognition for his role in the bilateral agreement.

  • Published in World
Subscribe to this RSS feed