Colombia’s Farc rebels have called a two-month unilateral ceasefire, the first truce in more than a decade, as negotiators met in Cuba in the latest attempt to end the five-decade civil war.
However, president Juan Manuel Santos’s government has so far rejected any stoppage of military operations until a final peace deal is signed with Farc – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – and even vowed to step up the offensive.
Farc yesterday said it would halt all offensive military operations and acts of sabotage against infrastructure until 20 January.
“This policy decision of the Farc is a contribution made to strengthen the climate of understanding necessary so that the parties that are starting the dialogue achieve the purpose desired by all Colombians,” Farc lead negotiator Ivan Marquez said as he arrived for the talks.
The gesture is a positive sign that the rebels are keen to push talks forward to a successful end, something that was thrown into doubt by previous long, drawn-out speeches by its leadership calling for major changes to Colombia’s political system.
The war has dragged on for nearly half a century, taking thousands of lives, and displacing millions of people in Latin America’s longest-running insurgency.
Colombia’s conflict proved to be intractable in three previous peace processes, but both the government and Farc have expressed optimism that this time might be different.
Mr Santos wants an agreement within nine months, although the two sides face plenty of thorny issues in their five-point agenda, which will begin with rural development.