News / Americas

    Colombia Army, Rebels Meet Face-to-Face at Peace Talks

    Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (L) reads from a document, next to fellow negotiator Jesus Santrich (C) during a conference in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 22, 2014.
    Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (L) reads from a document, next to fellow negotiator Jesus Santrich (C) during a conference in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 22, 2014.
    Reuters

    Colombian military officers and leftist guerrillas met face-to-face on Friday for the first time in their 50-year war, starting talks on a ceasefire that would take hold should the government and the rebels reach a comprehensive peace agreement.

    The government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been engaged in peace talks in Cuba for nearly two years,reaching three partial agreements on their five-point agenda.

    The two sides recently opened talks on another key point, that of reparations for war victims, and began hearing testimony from those who have lost loved ones or been displaced by Latin America's longest-running conflict, which has killed more than 200,000 people since 1964.

    Enacting ceasefire

    But peace negotiators decided to get a head start on what is expected to be the most difficult agreement: how to end the conflict and enact a definitive, bilateral ceasefire.

    Active-duty officers had never before sat down with members of the FARC to talk peace.

    "It is undoubtedly important that for the first time representatives of the active armed forces ... and the FARC have sat at the table under equal conditions," Ivan Marquez, the rebels' lead negotiator, told reporters after the meeting.

    "Now is the time for us to get rid of our [military] uniforms," he said.

    General Javier Florez, chief of the general staff of the Colombian armed forces, led a special subcommittee that also included officers of the army, air force, navy and police.

    Florez, 57, participated in one of the Colombian military's most successful operations against the FARC, in September 2010, when FARC military chief Jorge Briceño was killed. He was also involved in operations that killed top FARC leader Alfonso Cano in 2011 and No. 2 military leader Raul Reyes in 2008.

    On Friday, he sat at the same table with rebel commanders led by Marquez.

    Difficult wranglings

    The FARC has called for a bilateral ceasefire during peace talks, but Santos rejected that, citing a previous attempt at peace talks from 1999 to 2002 when the FARC used the ceasefire to rearm.

    "I repeat, so that we are absolutely clear, we are not negotiating a ceasefire for right now," government representative Humberto de la Calle told reporters. "The subcommittee is limited to preparing possible future mechanisms that will only enter in force once we reach a final agreement."

    The FARC has laid down its arms for a number of temporary unilateral ceasefires, for example during the run-up to elections this year. But the Colombian army and rebels have engaged in periodic combat throughout the 21 months of peace talks.

    Two weeks ago, the center-right Santos was sworn in for a second four-year term after a hard-fought re-election in which right-wing challenger Oscar Zuluaga criticized the talks and threatened to end them if elected.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Mexican Women Victims of Rape, Torture When Arrested

    Amnesty International finds a majority of women arrested in Mexico are sexually abused and tortured in the hours following their arrest

    Cuban Hotel Becomes First to Operate Under US Brand

    Military-owned Gaviota 5th Avenue Hotel, close to Caribbean seafront, is one of two hotels Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide agreed to manage in multimillion-dollar deal with Cuba in March

    UNICEF Warns Disadvantaged Youth Face Death, Poverty

    UNICEF report calls for a fair chance for every child

    Poll: Nicaragua President Ortega Expected to Win Third Straight Term

    Poll shows 65 percent of those surveyed plan to vote for Daniel Ortega's leftist FSLN party, compared with just 13 percent for the entire opposition

    2016 Games Face Greater Challenges than Zika, Says Olympic Committee CEO

    Temperatures are low enough to keep mosquito at bay, Sidney Levy tells VOA; bigger challenges are security, transportation and water quality