Colombia government, FARC rebels sign ceasefire

Jun 24, 2016 13:13 IST

FARC rebelsThe Colombian government and the leftist FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels on 23 June 2016 signed a historic ceasefire deal. This ceasefire deal helped in ending more than five decades of conflict, which is regarded as one of the oldest wars of history.

The signing ceremony held at Havana was witnessed by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, FARC chief Timoleón Timochenko Jiménez, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, Cuban president, Raúl Castro and Venezuela’s head of state, Nicolás Maduro.

The announcement is seen as one of the last steps before a full peace deal is signed, which is expected within weeks via a referendum. The formal peace talks for the deal were started three years ago, in October 2012, in the Cuban capital.

Core area of Peace Talks 

The peace talks between the government and the rebels were hosted by the Cuban president, Raúl Castro; while Venezuela that had the observer status played an important role in encouraging FARC to the negotiating table.

The core area of discussion focused on five main areas that is land reform, the rebels' future role in political life, a definitive end of hostilities, fighting the illegal drug trade and the situation of the victims.

About FARC

• The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (FARC-EP) is a left wing militant organization established in 1964.

• It is Colombia's largest rebel group and Latin America's oldest left-wing insurgency. It is active in Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador.

• Like any left-wing militant organisation, its aim is to overthrow the government in power.

• It was established as a communist-inspired peasant army fighting for land reform and to reduce the gulf dividing rich and poor in the Andean country.

• It resulted in killing of an estimated 2.2 lakh people and displaced almost seven million.

Timeline of Columbian Conflict

The 50+years of Columbian conflict between the government and leftwing guerrillas like FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) started in 1964 with a group of nearly 50 guerrillas.

Slowly with time, the number of these guerrillas, who waged war on the state in the name of revolution, turned up to be a strong fighting force of thousands. Here follows a timeline of the their being into existence and becoming strong

May 1964: This historically rooted conflict of a group of communist guerrillas and peasants is known as La Violencia, which was triggered in 1948 after assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán.

In the month of May 1964, a group of guerrillas that rose under the leadership of Manuel Marulanda was attacked by the Colombian army in the tiny community of Marquetalia. This gunning down helped them those who escaped the event to turn up to be a rebel fighting force. They formed National Liberation Army (ELN) with an aim to replicate Cuba’s revolution.

May 1966: Marulanda along with other guerrilla leaders created the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The aim behind creation of FARC was to call for land reforms and militant resistance.

1970s: FARC, who earlier acted in some government roles, setting up training camps, medical services and few more, began events like kidnappings for ransom, often targeting politicians and wealthy landowners. This helped them in raising funds that in return helped them to pay for its militant camps and ersatz social services.

1980s: To resist the actions of FARC rebels, rightwing paramilitary groups were created.

1982: FARC name was modified by addition of words People’s Army to its name and planned a ceasefire with an aim to reintegrate into society.

1986: FARC’s political wing, the Patriotic Union, won a series of elections at local and federal government levels. But the elected party members were attacked or killed by the rightwing forces.

1997: United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) came into existence by three brothers whose father was killed by FARC. Its formation allowed other paramilitaries under a banner. In the first year of formation, the group killed thousands of FARC guerrillas along with its sympathizers.

Rebel group FARC and ELN and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia were declared terrorists groups by the US state department.

1999: around 3000 people were kidnapped by the guerrillas during a war between the FARC and Bogotá. These kidnappings led to No Más protests in cities around the country. This war forced the government to come up with a plan of peace talks.

2000: Around 24 revel leaders were assassinated in a covert programme by the CIA and NSA. The programme was started after US president George W Bush expanded Bill Clinton’s military aid to Colombia in a 9 billion dollar package to bolster the army in its drug war.

Between February 2002 to July 2008: Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped by FARC, and this kidnapping ended the peace talks. This action forced president, Alvaro Uribe to began a new campaign against the group. This action that included modernized army and the US aid resulted in decrease of the number of rebels to 8000 from 16000 in 2001.

Later, the FARC leader Marulanda due to heart attack after which Betancourt was freed along with other hostages.

February 2012-2014: Programme of kidnappings was closed by the FARC and enters into the peace talks again with Juan Manuel Santos’s new administration. But it continued ceasefire never came into effect.

June-September 2015: Unilateral ceasefire was declared by FARC and the talks continued in Cuba under President Castro regime.

June 2016: The peace talks hosted by Castro resulted in signing of a bilateral ceasefire between Colombian government and FARC leaders in Havana.

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