News / Americas

    Colombia Peace Talks Suspended After FARC Call for Pause

    Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) negotiator Pablo Catatumbo (C) reads a document as FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (R) and FARC negotiator Ricardo Tellez listen in Havana, Aug. 23, 2013.
    Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) negotiator Pablo Catatumbo (C) reads a document as FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (R) and FARC negotiator Ricardo Tellez listen in Havana, Aug. 23, 2013.
    Reuters
    Colombia's government and Marxist FARC rebels suspended their participation in peace talks in Cuba on Friday, complicating nine months of painstaking negotiations aimed at ending five decades of bloodshed.
     
    President Juan Manuel Santos called his negotiating team home from Havana hours after the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, said it would “pause” the talks to review a government plan to put any peace deal to a popular vote.
     
    It was the first interruption to the talks that began last November and a sudden dent to hopes the two sides would soon see the difficult talks through to the end, after recent comments from the FARC had given cause for optimism.
     
    While the halt to talks will worry Colombians, analysts said there is little reason to suspect the two sides will not resume talks again.
     
    Santos, who bet his political legacy on bringing peace to the Andean nation, sent a bill on Thursday to Congress that calls for a referendum on any peace accord during national elections in either March or May next year.
     
    “The FARC has decided to pause the discussions at the table, to focus exclusively on analyzing the implications of the government's proposal,” Pablo Catatumbo, one of the lead FARC negotiators, said in a statement.
     
    Santos said discussions would only resume when the government considered it appropriate.
     
    “We are going to assess their statement, their behavior toward the government initiative [which aims] to accelerate the solution of the conflict,” Santos said in a brief statement at Bogota's military airport.
     
    “In this process, the one who makes pauses and establishes the conditions, is not the FARC.”
     
    The FARC has said repeatedly it sees a constituent assembly as the best way to enshrine the tenets of the peace accords in the country's constitution and does not trust that a referendum would protect agreements reached in Havana.
     
    Colombians are desperate to see an end to the war that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 1964. Santos is also eager to negotiate peace with the National Liberation Army, a smaller rebel group known as the ELN. He has said he wants the FARC peace accord by November.
     
    Limited Patience
     
    In the final year of his four-year term, Santos has ruled out a constituent assembly and said the Colombian people must support any deals reached before an end to the war can be declared. Santos has not said if he will seek re-election.
     
    He accepted the FARC's right to study the government proposal, but urged the rebel negotiators not to take too long.
     
    “The FARC has left the negotiating table to study the proposal and it's legitimate and valid that it should, but time is passing and the patience of the Colombian people has a limit,” Santos said earlier on Friday.
     
    Some analysts say the unilateral decision by the government to seek a referendum goes against the spirit of the initial agreement that led to talks, in which it was clear both sides would decide jointly how to ratify any deal.
     
    “This incident weakens the peace process,” said Carlos Lozano, political analyst and editor of the left-leaning weekly magazine Voz. “But it is not at risk because it is just an incident and can be overcome.”
     
    The FARC has battled a dozen governments since it began as an agrarian struggle against rural inequality. Even while it has been severely weakened in the past 10 years by a heavy U.S.-backed offensive, it remains a formidable threat to the government and civilian population.
     
    More than three dozen FARC commanders are in Havana working through a five-point agenda involving agrarian reform, reparation to victims, stemming the illegal drug trade, an end to the conflict and the FARC's inclusion in the political system.
     
    The disruption in talks comes on the heels of several comments from the FARC in recent days that appeared to show irritation with comments from Santos, but the group also recently expressed optimism that progress had been made.
     
    In a recent interview, Santos told Reuters the rebel leadership could face jail terms if peace were achieved. He also said FARC negotiators would need to return to Colombia's jungle and face capture or death in battle if talks collapse.

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.

    More Americas News

    In Cuba, Racial Inequality Deepens With Tourism Boom

    As capitalism creeps in more than 60 years after revolution that promised social equality, local residents, analysts concerned about gap between haves and have nots

    Video WFP: 3.6 Million Haitians Face Food Insecurity

    Half of Haiti's population works in agriculture; Around 75 percent live on less than $2 per day

    Video Olympics Technology Center Getting Ready for 2016 Games

    This year, the whole system will be cloud-based, enabling millions of fans around the world instant access to relevant information about the competition

    Red Cross Scales Up Community Action to Combat Zika

    ICRCS is mobilizing its large volunteer force in affected communities to help them clear up trash and areas where mosquitoes can breed

    Haiti's Prime Minister Calls for Peace on 1st Day Without President

    Evans Paul urges Haitian protesters to end weeks of sometimes violent street marches and join a dialogue to create a transitional government

    Social Media Erupts in Support of Sikh Man Barred from Flight

    Waris Ahluwalia says he was barred from boarding a flight from Mexico City to New York because he refused to remove his turban