Colombia Gives FARC One Year for Peace Deal

By Dialogo
December 04, 2012

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos warned the country’s Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels on December 2 that they have until November 2013 to strike a peace deal under recently opened talks.

“This has to be a process of months, rather than years. In other words, this should not last any longer than November next year at the latest,” the president said at an event in the Caribbean resort city of Cartagena.

“But it is important to be patient, and not demand immediate results, because it is a negotiating table with some very complicated issues being discussed,” Santos stressed.

The FARC formally started talks with Bogotá on October 18 in neutral Norway. The talks moved to Havana on November 19 and will resume this week.

It is a conflict that has dragged on for almost a half century, with some 600,000 dead, 15,000 missing and four million people domestically displaced.

Last November 29, Colombian government and rebel negotiators reported progress in the first peace talks in a decade to attempt bringing Latin America’s longest running guerrilla insurgency to an end.

Talks resume on December 5, and continue to focus on land reform, the first point on the agenda, the parties said in a joint statement.

Iván Márquez, the FARC’s number two negotiator, said that an agreement reached to hold a public forum in Bogotá next month on agrarian development —unequal land distribution is a longstanding problem at the root of the conflict— was the best sign the process is moving forward.

Previous attempts at peace have failed. In the last effort, which lasted from 1999 to 2002, the government ended talks after concluding the FARC were using a vast demilitarized zone to regroup.

The rebels have suffered a string of military defeats in recent years, and several of their top commanders have been captured or killed. FARC ranks have also been severely depleted from its peak in the 1990s.

Aside from reaching a deal on land ownership, both sides must also agree on a mechanism to end hostilities, incorporating the FARC into political life, curbing drug trafficking, and compensating victims of the conflict.