Thursday, June 23, 2016

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc): Ceasefire signed to end five decades of war

The Colombian government and the Farc rebels have signed a historic ceasefire deal, bringing them closer to ending more than five decades of conflict.

The announcement is seen as one of the last steps before a full peace deal is signed, which is expected within weeks. Colombia's president and the Farc leader shook hands in celebration. The longest-running insurgency in the Western Hemisphere left an estimated 220,000 people dead and almost seven million displaced. The announcement in Havana caps formal peace talks that started three years ago in the Cuban capital.

The Farc in the 21st Century is a strange beast. Gone is the bipolar vision of the Cold War, and gone too are most of the group's original intellectual architects, many killed in combat. Today, somewhat anchorless, the rebels continue to go through motions of an armed insurgency but they know a new future is beckoning. They remain primed for war - machine guns by their beds, handguns under their pillows, all night lookouts keeping watch for an enemy that no longer seems to be searching for them. Read more

But it does not mark the start of the ceasefire, which will only begin with the signing of a final accord. Colombia's President, Juan Manuel Santos, has previously said he hopes to sign that accord by the end of July. Thursday's announcement includes:

  • A commitment that rebels will lay down arms within 180 days of a final peace deal
  • The creation of temporary transition zones and camps for the estimated 7,000 rebels
  • A provision that no civilians will be allowed to enter Farc camps, to guarantee rebel security
  • A provision that UN monitors will receive all the group's weapons
The announcement of the Farc ceasefire dominated the headlines of the online editions of the main Colombian newspapers and other media outlets. Centre-left newspaper El Espectador featured extensive coverage of the news of the agreement and a banner headline, which reads: "The guns went silent" along a striking image of two guerrilla fighters in action. It also covered the key points of the deal as well as the history of the conflict.

Conservative newspaper El Tiempo emphasised President Juan Manuel Santos's statement that the final agreement would be signed in Colombia, not Cuba. Medellin-based newspaper El Colombiano featured a commentary by former President Alvaro Uribe, who remains sceptical about the prospects for peace, saying "the word peace is wounded." One of the main national radio networks RCN ran a story citing Farc leader Timochenko saying: "We are going to do politics without arms."


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