By Mridula Tirumalasetti
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia — Head of the Southern Bloc of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and member of the rebel group’s Secretariat, Joaquin Gomez, arrived in Havana this past Sunday to participate in the peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. The presence of Gomez during peace negotiations represents “a new gesture of peace from the FARC, expressing our determination to advance toward the signature of the final agreement that will establish a foundation for the Colombia of the future,” according to organization’s peace delegation. The Colombian government issued a statement that confirmed Gomez’s trip to Cuba, which asserted that Gomez’s departure “was carried out according to established protocol and with the express authorization of the President of the Republic.” Gomez joins two other FARC leaders participating in peace negotiations, Pastor Alape and Carlos Lozada, and is the fifth FARC Secretariat member in Havana.
Peace talks have been ongoing between the government of Columbia and the FARC since 2012. Although the FARC has declared ceasefires previously, these have been temporary. The FARC declared an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire earlier this month, which would only end if they were to be attacked.The move, which was welcomed by the UN and the European Union, was met with skepticism from the Colombian government. President Juan Manuel Santos called the ceasefire a “gift…full of thorns,” cautioning that the truce was a chance for the FARC to re-arm. The government declared it would not join in the truce. Santos also condemned the attack by the FARC that killed five soldiers in a rural area of western Colombia. He said the soldiers died “defending the security of their fellow Colombians.” In November, the FARC captured Colombian general Ruben Dario Alzate, which halted negotiations and almost derailed the peace talks. However, the General was released unharmed in order to revive negotiations. FARC also captured and recently released a soldier, Carlos Becerra Ojeda.
The Colombian state has been at war with the Marxist group for over 50 years. The FARC, which was formed in 1964, was one of a few guerilla groups that emerged in response to governmental repression of popular progressive movements during the 1950s and 1960s. The Colombian government and the FARC have reached partial deals on the issues of land reform, ending drug trade, and the FARC’s future participation in Colombian politics. However, the issues of victim compensation and ending the armed conflict have not yet been agreed upon.
For more information, please see:
Prensa Latina—In Havana Commander of the South Block of the FARC—29 December 2014
teleSUR—Armed Conflict in Colombia Has Affected 6.8 Mn People—28 December 2014
BBC News—Colombia Farc ceasefire starts after deadly attack—20 December 2014
Reuters—Colombia’s FARC rebels free soldier captured during attack—26 December 2014
The Tico Times—Colombia suspends peace talks with FARC after general kidnapped—16 November 2014
The Tico Times—Southern-bloc FARC chief arrives in Cuba to support peace process—29 December 2014