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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Cubans Imagine New, More Prosperous Life Without an Old Foe

News of the historic shift in US-Cuban relations echoed quickly through the Spanish colonial plazas of Old Havana this week
More

Video Obama Faces Opposition on Cuba

Several legislative obstacles may stand in the way of normal relations with Cuba
More

US Expects January Talks With Cuba

Meeting, that was originally a periodic review of Cuba-US migration, will now include talks on restoring diplomatic relations
More

Brazil's Rousseff Pledges to Tighten Operations at Petrobras

She urges Brazilians not to lose faith in oil producer, which is mired in a corruption scandal
More

Colombia to Print Garcia Marquez Banknotes in Tribute to Writer

Currency to honor country's most celebrated writer, who died in April and who is renowned as the father of magical realism storytelling
More

US-Cuba Trade Could Grow Significantly

Analysts say US exports to Cuba could eventually hit $5.9 billion annually, while Havana's exports to the US could reach $6.7 billion
More