BOGOTÁ — With peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group now in their ninth round, some Colombians are starting to wonder what — if anything — has been achieved in Havana after half a year.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, acknowledging that growing concern, told reporters in late May: “When we have the whole package put together [of FARC concessions in the peace process], the Colombian people will strongly support it.”
The war between FARC — whose force is believed to number about 8,000 combatants — and the government in Bogotá has endured since 1964, making it the longest such conflict in South America. It’s believed to have resulted in 600,000 deaths and between 4.9 million and 5.5 million internally displaced people, or 11 percent of Colombia’s current population, according to the Centro de Monitoreo de Desplazamientos Internos.
Responding to Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón’s statement that the FARC should, “talk less and act more,” guerrilla representative Jorge Torres Victoria, alias Pablo Catatumbo, said “a 50-year-old conflict cannot be resolved in a matter of months.” FARC’s second in command, Luciano Marín Arango — alias Ivan Marquez — added: “We do not understand why they say that the pace is slow. These issues have to be treated with serenity and depth if we really want to lay solid foundations for a stable and lasting peace.”
At the moment, the FARC controls roughly 60 percent of Colombia’s drug trade, said the country’s police chief, Gen. José Roberto León. Members of the FARC secretariat in Havana vehemently deny their group’s participation in kidnapping, saying the rebel group banned all abductions beginning in February 2012.
In a Gallup survey of 8.7 million Colombians taken in May, 64 percent of respondents said they believe the peace talks now underway in Cuba will conclude with a resolution to the conflict — notwithstanding the presidential elections set for May 2014.
While the FARC “claims to be the original victims” in the long-running conflict, said chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle, “there has to be a reconciliation that recognizes crimes committed. A good start would be for the FARC to recognize their victims. This is an essential and unavoidable question.”