FARC Rebels Pledge Openness Ahead of Dialogue in Cuba

By Dialogo
October 30, 2012

Colombia’s FARC rebels said that they would approach upcoming peace talks with open minds, and no hidden agenda.

“There are no parallel or hidden agendas on the rebels’ side,” they said in an email to AFP in Havana ahead of the November 15 talks in the Cuban capital.

Colombia’s government and leftist FARC rebels on October 18 formally launched peace talks in Norway aimed at ending nearly five decades of a conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Norway, followed by Cuba, are hosting the first direct talks between the two sides in 10 years.

The initial round of talks in Norway was aimed at hashing out technical details and logistics for the peace process’s five-point plan.

The two sides will hold preparatory meetings in Cuba starting November 5 and the talks will resume in earnest on the Caribbean island on November 15. That is when in-depth negotiations will start with the thorny issue of rural development.

Colombia has wide income disparities, with much of the country’s rural areas lacking basic services and infrastructure.

The round of talks to be held in Cuba will also address the issue of land distribution. Colombia’s countryside is full of large plots mostly owned by the wealthy and little land is available to small farmers who want their own pieces of land.

Land reform was at the heart of a peasant uprising in the 1960s that saw the formation of the FARC, and access to farmland remains an important issue in a country where half the population lives in poverty.

The Colombian government estimates that some 600,000 people have been killed by armed groups and security forces in the country, and that 3.7 million Colombian citizens have been displaced in the conflict.

After more than fifty years of activity, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia may be ready for a truce after a long string of setbacks. In recent years, it has suffered the capture or killing of some of its top leaders, and the depletion of its ranks to half what they were at their peak in the 1990s.