More than three years of peace talks in Havana, Cuba, between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as FARC) have finally reached a ceasefire peace agreement.
FARC has one of the longest-running unresolved conflicts in the world, since their movement started in the 1960s.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his rebel name Timochenko, agreed that the estimated 8,000 FARC rebels will lay down their weapons and demobilize in exchange for the security of former fighters. The final negotiation is scheduled to take place on July 20.
Santo wrote on his Twitter account saying, “Tomorrow will be a great day. We worked for peace in Colombia, a dream which is now becoming reality.” To which FARC responded, “We made it. The path to peace must continue, because it’s not an illusion now, it’s a promise.”
A unilateral ceasefire was undertaken by FARC last year, Reuters reported, and the government put an end to airstrikes on rebel camps. FARC had an estimated 17,000 combatants at it’s peak, and engaged in kidnapping and drug trafficking to make money.
Some of their members were kidnapped as babies and don’t know any life outside of FARC. Last year, under a related agreement, it was agreed that rebel soldiers who confess to their crimes will be dealt with in a transitional justice system and be subject to reduced sentencing, which is expected to be limited to community service.
In the 1980s, thousands of guerrillas were assassinated by paramilitary forces for joining a political party during an attempted peace agreement. According to the New York Times, 60 percent of Colombians said they would vote for a peace agreement, but supporters of the former right-wing president still want the rebels to be punished for their crimes.
Jorge Robeldo, a senator from the opposition party in Colombia is quoted as saying, “Disarming the FARC won’t resolve all of Colombia’s problems. Some violence will disappear, some won’t. And other problems will continue in this country, like poverty, unemployment, an agrarian crisis and corruption. But this doesn’t take away from the immense importance that a cease-fire has for this country.”
Following a press conference announcing peace talks last year, President Santos appeared on national television and said that, “It will be the end of the guerilla groups and we can all concentrate – democratically – on making our country the free, normal, modern, just and inclusive place it can and should be.”