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Colombian one-sided truce amid peace talks

Nov. 20, 2012 at 3:30 AM   |   Comments

BOGOTA, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A one-sided cease-fire by Colombia's main rebel group began Tuesday as Bogota said it would keep pursuing the rebels militarily amid peace talks in Havana.

The promise by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, to halt all "offensive military operations," including infrastructure sabotage, is meant to "strengthen the climate of understanding needed for starting the dialogue to achieve the purpose desired by all Colombians," the FARC said in a statement.

The statement was posted on the FARC website and read by FARC second-in-command and chief negotiator Ivan Marquez in Havana Monday on the first of 10 days of peace talks.

But Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno told reporters in the Colombian capital Bogota would continue its military operation against the rebels because "the reality shows us that this terrorist organization has never complied with anything."

"It's very hard to believe they are able to stop murdering children and making attacks against civilians like the ones we have seen in recent weeks," he said.

The Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization purporting to represent the rural poor in a struggle against Colombia's rich and powerful has pursued an armed conflict in Colombia since 1964. It is financed primarily by kidnappings and drug trafficking.

"Law enforcement has a constitutional duty to pursue those criminals who have violated the Constitution and the law," Pinzon said Monday, adding the FARC terrorists would be pursued "for all the crimes they have committed over many years, not for future crimes."

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has repeatedly said his government would not declare a truce during negotiations with the FARC. He said he did not want to repeat mistakes made in an earlier round of talks that ended in 2002, in which the FARC used a lengthy truce to gain strength.

The government has said a cease-fire would be a final result if talks are successful.

Government delegation chief and former Colombian Vice President Humberto de la Calle said, "We are aware of the pain and anguish caused by the conflict, but in the past, the cease-fire has created advantages for the guerrillas that cannot be repeated."

Havana is playing host to the talks a month after negotiators met in Oslo, Norway, to agree on basic rules for the negotiations.

The talks, seeking to end five decades of conflict, are first focusing on land reform, officials said. The conflict originated in the unequal distribution of land in rural areas and the economic disadvantages of poor farmers.

The talks are then expected to focus on four other points -- ending the armed conflict, guaranteeing rights of demobilized guerrillas to participate in Colombia's political process, ending FARC drug trafficking and guaranteeing rights to victims of the conflict.

"This will be a rapid and effective process -- a process of months, not years," de la Calle said in Bogota before flying to Havana.

Bogota has said its goal for the talks is for the FARC to give up its armed struggle and join the political process as a legal party.

The FARC, which numbered 16,000 in 2001, is now widely believed to have about 8,000 fighters.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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