Santos Calls on the FARC to Follow ETA’s Example

By Dialogo
October 24, 2011

On October 20, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed the announcement of a definitive halt to violence made by the armed Basque separatist organization ETA and expressed the “wish” that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would follow that example.

The Colombian president’s message, sent from his Twitter account, came after the declaration made by three militants from the Basque organization in a video published on the webpage of daily Gara, in which they affirmed that “ETA has decided on a definitive halt to its armed activity.”

This was followed by a statement by the president of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy, who said that the announcement “represents a defeat for terror and a victory for democracy, liberty and the rule of law.”

The FARC guerrilla group is the leading rebel group in the Andean country, with 47 years of armed struggle and around 8,000 fighters under arms, according to Colombian Defense Ministry figures.

Santos has warned the FARC that in order for peace talks to be a possibility, they first have to release all those they have kidnapped, including the 18 police officers and military personnel who have been captive for more than a decade, in addition to ceasing “terrorist acts” and excluding minors from their ranks.

The FARC propose to exchange the 18 members of the public security forces for a group of at least 500 rebels held in the country’s prisons and in those of the United States.

In addition, according to the Defense Ministry, the FARC are responsible for the kidnapping of at least 154 civilians who have not been heard from again, at the same time that there is evidence of life for another 46.

In recent weeks, and with an eye toward the regional elections that will be held in Colombia on October 30, the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), another guerrilla group, have intensified their attacks on military units, police garrisons, towns, electrical transmission towers, and oil pipelines.