Colombian government negotiators have arrived in Havana for peace talks with leftist FARC rebels aimed at ending Latin America’s longest-running uprising.
Rebel delegates, including Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch woman who fights alongside the FARC rebels, are already in Cuba awaiting Monday’s talks that had been delayed for four days over a lack of clarity over the role of civilian representatives.
“This will be a rapid and effective process. A process of months, not years,” lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle told reporters in Bogota before boarding the plane for Havana on Sunday.
Latin America’s largest rebel group, founded in 1964 and with 9,200 armed fighters now, FARC – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – may be ready for a truce after a long string of setbacks.
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In recent years, it has suffered the capture or killing of some of its senior leaders, and the depletion of its ranks to half what they were at their peak in the 1990s.
De la Calle said he believed this was “the defining moment” for Colombian peace efforts as both sides had agreed that discussions, now set to start on Monday, “must end with a final agreement on the conflict”.
He said the government wants to build “a stable peace,” and envisaged that “the FARC would be turned into a legal political party”.
De la Calle travelled to Havana with all the other high level members of the delegation bar one – retired police chief Oscar Naranjo – who is scheduled to arrive on Monday.
These negotiations, the fourth attempt to broker peace between the government and the FARC, have raised hopes of breaking a decades-long cycle of conflict responsible for killing hundreds of thousands.
The Havana meetings, following on the start of a dialogue in Norway one month ago, are to focus on a five-point agenda that includes land issues, participation in politics, drug trafficking, disarmament and restitution for conflict victims.