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 Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

NYC Immigrant Advocates Praise Obama Move, Vow to Continue Fight

Threatened refusal by Republican congressional leaders to cooperate will backfire politically, attorney insists
More

Obama's Immigration Action: What It All Means

Attorney Camille Mackler is director of legal initiatives at advocacy group New York Immigration Coalition, and she discusses specifics of the action
More

Video For Hispanics, Mixed Response to Reforms

Activists say while president’s action is an important step, a more lasting solution agreed upon by Congress is needed
More

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

President holds campaign-style event in Las Vegas aimed at convincing Americans of merits of plan
More

Mexicans Hold Rally for Missing Students

Skirmishes outside Mexico City's National Palace marred a mostly peaceful rally attended by thousands of people
More

Bruised Venezuelan Opposition May Make Headway in 2015

Much-touted 're-launch' of Venezuela's opposition in October had poor turnout
More