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

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing 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.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Kidnapped Mexican Football Star Rescued

    Alan Pulido was abducted by gunmen outside his home town of Ciudad Victoria as he left a party

    Hundreds of Thousands of Brazilians Hold Gay Rights Parade

    Gay rights advocates in Brazil are pushing the congress to pass a law allowing Brazilians to legally identify themselves as the gender of their choice

    Haiti Braces for Trouble as Election Panel Report Is Due

    Haitians are preparing for trouble as electoral verification commission is due to deliver results of its monthlong review of last year's contested presidential and legislative elections

    Brazil Launches Manhunt for Alleged Gang Rapists

    Police identifies four of 30 suspects who gang raped teenager and posted video online

    'El Chapo' Lawyers Split on Extradition Case

    Lawyers can't agree on staving off extradition to US

    Colombia Rebels Release Three Journalists

    All three, including a Spanish correspondent working on a story about coca growers, were released Friday