Colombia Peace Talk Preparations Start in Cuba

By Dialogo
November 08, 2012

Negotiators for the Colombian government and leftist FARC guerrillas opened two days of talks on November 6, prior to the peace negotiations set to start in Cuba on November 15, diplomats told AFP.

A source described the gathering as “an internal meeting” between representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla and the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

The private meeting meant that peace guarantors from Norway, Cuba, Venezuela and Chile were absent.

Cuban state news agency Prensa Latina reported that the meeting was intended for both sides to “define technical aspects behind closed doors” of the formal negotiations.

Colombia and Latin America’s longest-fighting rebels formally launched peace talks in Norway on October 18, aimed at ending nearly five decades of a conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

These are the first direct talks between the two sides in 10 years.

The two sides will be discussing a five-point agenda that includes rural development, illegal drugs, reparations, and how to demobilize the guerrilla fighters and incorporate them into Colombia’s political process.

The Anncol news agency, sympathetic to the FARC rebels, reported that 34-year-old Dutch born guerrilla Tanja Nijmeijer is set to arrive in Cuba to be a spokesperson for the guerrillas.

U.S. officials want Nijmeijer – a former schoolteacher who joined the FARC in 2002 – for her alleged role in the abduction of three U.S. contractors in 2003. Colombian commandos released the American contractors along with Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt in a daring 2008 operation.

Latin America’s largest rebel group, founded in 1964 and with some 9,200 armed fighters, may be ready for a truce after a long string of setbacks.

In recent years several top rebel leaders have been killed or captured. Guerrilla ranks have also shrunk to half of what they were at their peak in the 1990s.