Colombia Rejects Guerrilla Chief’s Call for Talks

By Dialogo
January 11, 2012

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on January 10 rejected a call by the new FARC rebel leader to revive failed peace talks from a decade ago, and instead called on the guerrillas to take real steps toward peace.

Latin America’s oldest insurgency movement is at its weakest point in years after a U.S.-funded crackdown, and Santos has made clear he will not open talks unless the rebels first give up arms, release hostages and halt attacks.

Guerrilla chief Timoleón Jimenez, or “Timochenko,” said his Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) “would be interested in a hypothetical negotiating table.”

It was the latest of periodic overtures from the FARC and came in a letter published late on January 9 on their website. But Timochenko did not explain what he meant by “hypothetical” or give signs that the FARC would meet Santos’s conditions.

“We don’t want more rhetoric. The country asks for clear acts of peace,” Santos wrote in a message on Twitter on January 10.

Timochenko urged Santos – who was Finance Minister during the failed 1999-2002 El Caguán peace process where Colombia created a demilitarized zone (DMZ) for rebels – to take up the agenda from those talks.

Santos and his predecessor President Álvaro Uribe have pushed the FARC back thanks to improved intelligence, mobility and training of Colombian security forces. That has led to the killing or capture of senior rebels.