At last, it seems Colombian rebels are going to lay down arms. In a historic agreement reached at a meeting in Cuban capital Havana, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of the Farc rebel group have set a six-month deadline to sign a peace deal.
If the peace deal is ever reached, it might put an end to one of Latin America’s longest-running armed conflicts. The talks between the two sides had hit a roadblock in April this year when the Colombian government threatened to resume bombing rebel hideouts after Marxist fighters killed 10 soldiers in the western province of Cauca.
The agreement reached on Wednesday talks of compensating victims and punishing those suspected of human rights abuses. That was precisely the hurdle on the road to peace. The guerrilla group also agreed to surrender its weapons within 60 days of a final accord being signed.
Overcoming this major hurdle is being described as a ‘major breakthrough’ in peace talks. FARC rebels have been fighting for the imposition of communist rule for several decades, but they have recently agreed to participate in electoral politics and help to remove the many land mines that litter the countryside.
Reports say the conflict has led to the deaths of more than 200,000 people over the past decades.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has applauded the agreement. “The announcements made today at the peace talks in Havana represent historic progress toward a final peace agreement to end more than 50 years of armed conflict,” Kerry said in a statement. “Peace is now ever closer for the Colombian people and millions of conflict victims.”
The rebels have long agreed to halt the drug production that funds their activities.
A truce with the FARC is seen as crucial for Colombia to boost its economy, which has relatively remained healthy despite a significant drop in oil production, one of the key growth engines of the country.
If the rebels lay down their arms, the government could launch land reforms, which would bolster the economy significantly. Moreover, a peaceful Colombia would draw more foreign investment.