Colombia’s peace talks with FARC dissidents yield positive results

Colombia’s government and the largest FARC dissident group have made significant progress in their peace talks, freeing hostages, and reducing violence, a government negotiator said on Friday.

FARC and Colombian government agreement
First agreement between FARC and Colombian government, in 2016. Photo courtesy: Presidency of Mexico

A government negotiator said on Friday that peace talks with the largest FARC dissident group in Colombia have led to the rebels halting kidnappings, releasing 10 hostages, and lowering confrontations with the army in less than three months.

The leftist government of President Gustavo Petro aims to achieve “total peace” in the Andean nation and put an end to a 60-year internal armed conflict that has killed over 450,000 people.

The government started talks with the Estado Mayor Central (EMC) – a breakaway faction of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that demobilized – in October. It also agreed to a ceasefire that will be renewed by both sides this month, said Camilo Gonzalez, the coordinator of the government’s negotiating team with the EMC, in an interview.

“We have made significant progress in this period,” Gonzalez said, noting that the EMC has also reduced the forced confinement and displacement of civilians.

However, Gonzalez said that the EMC has increased its battles with other illegal armed groups in Colombia, as they compete for territories used for criminal activities such as drug trafficking and illegal mining.

“They fight brutally,” he said.

Gonzalez said that regional and multilateral ceasefires are needed to decrease the violence and safeguard the civilian populations that are trapped in the middle of the conflict.

The next round of talks between the government and the EMC, which will take place in Bogota from Jan. 9 to Jan. 20, will address sensitive topics such as cutting down deforestation and respecting the environment.

Gonzalez said that the talks must end with the EMC giving up its weapons and stopping kidnapping and extortion for good.

The Colombian government is also in talks with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group, with which it has a ceasefire.

It has not been able to start talks with the Segunda Marquetalia, another FARC dissident group, while the Clan del Golfo, a major drug-trafficking gang, turned down an offer of lower sentences for surrendering.

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