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Colombia, FARC guerrillas set date for deal to end half-century of armed conflict

March 23, 2016 - COLOMBIA

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) rebels, Rodrigo Londoño, pledged to end the country's decades-long internal conflict by the March date. If an agreement is signed in Havana, Cuba, on the March date, it will be submitted to a referendum by the Colombian people.

The Colombian-FARC peace talks in Havana, moderated by Cuban President Raul Castro, have been touch-and-go since they began in 2012. The setbacks included the inadequate monitoring of a broken unilateral ceasefire and inadequate monitoring of demobilized combatants.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) notes that the breakthrough came with Santos' agreeing to the FARC demand for the inclusion of right-wing paramilitary groups in the present peace talks. Previous Colombian administrations have attempted to implement comprehensive demobilization and reinsertion programs with guerrilla groups, but have failed due to the exclusion of paramilitary forces.

The two sides have agreed to create special tribunals to try former FARC combatants as well as government troops and right-wing paramilitaries. Individuals found guilty of human rights violations will be required to pay reparations to their victims and they face a maximum sentence of eight years under special conditions - if they voluntarily opt to cooperate with the judicial process. Those who do not cooperate and are convicted could face much longer sentences. Those who sign the peace deal, accept responsibility, face charges and pay reparations will be safe from extradition if they are wanted by the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Colombia's long-running internal conflict, referred to as a triangulated war among guerrillas, paramilitaries, and government forces since the 1960s, have produced some 220,000 deaths while millions of Colombians have been forced to flee their homes.

Historic Agreement between Colombia and the FARC (COHA 23 Sep 2015)

A big leap towards peace in Colombia (Economist 26 Sep 2015)

Colombia Farc: President Santos says talks will not be extended (BBC 20 Feb 2016)

Date written/update: 2015-10-02