Colombia Peace Talks Wrap up for Holidays

YAMIL LAGE The head of the Colombian government’s delegation for the peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leftist guerrillas, Humberto de la Calle, delivers a press conference at the Convention Palace in Havana, on December 21, 2012. Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC will have a recess since Friday until January 14, informed both delegations in Havana. AFP

Colombian government representatives and leftist rebels recessed peace talks for a holiday respite beginning Friday, with no agreement on what kind of country they want after 21 days and more than 100 hours of negotiations.

The government delegation and negotiators from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have been sitting across the table in the Cuban capital since Nov. 19 seeking a deal to end the country’s violent, decades-old conflict.

Although they are still working on the first point of their six-item agenda, both sides insisted talks are developing in a respectful atmosphere. Friday’s interactions with reporters showed big differences, however.

“The government does not have to change its social model. That’s why we have said we are not negotiating Colombia’s model of development or its democratic system of government,” said Humberto de la Calle, chief negotiator for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ team.

He added that the two sides are still working toward an agreement under which the FARC would lay down its arms and become a social and political organization.

Shortly after, it was the guerrillas’ turn to talk.

“The FARC believes it is necessary to tackle national problems, that it urgently needs changes to unjust structures. … If you don’t want conflict, you have to remove those causes,” said the rebels’ lead negotiator, Ivan Marquez.

Marquez, whose birth name is Luciano Marin Arango, said Colombia needs social justice and equality for a true peace.

In the past weeks, both sides have made some headway by promoting an agrarian forum in the Colombian capital of Bogota; setting up a website that has elicited more than 2,000 proposals for citizen participation in the peace process; and receiving thousands more ideas collected from Colombians by lawmakers back home.

Both sides said they are looking for points of agreement upon which to build a peace accord. In a joint statement, they said talks will resume Jan. 14 and continue with agrarian reform, the first item on the agenda.

Formed in the 1960s, the FARC is believed to have about 9,000 members and is the oldest active guerrilla army in the Western Hemisphere.

Neither side has set a definitive date for a conclusion to the negotiations, although Santos has said they shouldn’t go beyond November.


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