Colombia to restart peace talks with insurgents ELN
By JIM LONGSTAFF
Jan. 6, 2009
PELAGUERAS – The Colombian government is working to restart talks with the leftist guerrilla group known as the FARC, after pulling the plug more than three weeks ago.
The government stopped formal talks immediately after the FARC announced on Jan. 3 that it was ending its ceasefire with the government and was considering going back to the negotiating table.
The FARC, which has been in conflict with the Colombian government since 1964, announced its intention to resume talks with the government on Monday in the northern city of Quito.
The FARC said it would work to negotiate with the government on all outstanding issues. It said its decision to resume talks was a “peace initiative” that was made after many months of careful deliberation.
FARC spokesman Iván Márquez said the group is ready to negotiate with the government on land, people, peace, security and the economy.
Colombia and the U.S.-backed government that took office in June after winning a disputed election has been the most effective peacekeeping force in the world since the peace accords in the 1990s. But a deadly wave of FARC attacks killed more than 70 people last year – about half of them in the last 10 days alone.
The FARC, which took up arms when the country was ruled by the country’s leftist guerrillas, has been battling for the right to negotiate a new political deal with the Colombian government.
The last time the guerrillas and government did negotiations was in 1999. The FARC claimed the talks were a political maneuver for the guerrillas to gain control of the government.
The Colombian government has accused the FARC of violating the accord, which grants the rebels special rights in the country’s social and economic programs and allows them some limited political rights, such as holding elections.
The FARC has been fighting to become a recognized political force since it began its armed rebellion in 1964. Since then, they have killed at least 2,700 people, according to official figures, and kidnapped more than 50,000 people, most of them women and children, officials said in recent years.
In the last several months, the government has sent some 3,900 security forces into areas of the country where the