FARC, Colombian government announce end to decades-long conflict | News | DW | 24.08.2016
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FARC, Colombian government announce end to decades-long conflict

The Colombian government has reached a historic truce with the armed rebel group. An insurgency has been ongoing in the country for decades, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead.

Negotiators from both the government side and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that a deal had been reached on Wednesday evening in Havana, Cuba, effectively ending Latin America's last major guerrilla war.

The two sides have been working in recent weeks to finalize the last details of the accord, which early details suggest commits the government to carry out radical land reform, overhaul its anti-narcotics strategy and expand the state into various neglected areas of the country. The final text of the accord is yet to be published, however.

After several years of a government campaign to weaken the FARC militarily, negotiations started in November 2012, but were stymied for some time by distrust built up during decades of war propaganda on both sides.

A breakthrough came last September when Santos traveled to Havana to lay out a framework for investigating atrocities, punishing guerrillas for involvement in those abuses and offering compensation to victims.

Kolumbianische Regierung und FARC-Rebellen schließen offiziell Frieden Juan Manuel Santos

President Juan Manuel Santos has hailed the agreement as "historic"

'Historic' deal

The war, which began in 1964, is the last major armed conflict in the Americas. It has killed 260,000 people, uprooted 6.8 million and left 45,000 missing.

"Today I hope to give historic, very important news to the country," President Juan Manuel Santos said earlier in the day.

The accord must now be ratified by voters in a plebiscite, which will take place on October 2, according to Santos. Polls show Colombians would likely endorse any deal in a simple yes or no vote.

Low voter turnout is a concern because a minimum of 13 percent of the electorate, or about 4.4 million voters, must vote in favor for the accord to be ratified.

Lingering concerns

The opposition is also reportedly likely to try to convert the vote into a referendum on Santos, whose approval rating plummeted to 21 percent in May according to a Gallup poll, the lowest since he took office in 2010.

Various polls have indicated that most Colombians associate the FARC with narco-terrorism due to its heavy involvement in the cocaine trade. The FARC for its part has retained a Cold War-era view of Colombia's political and economic establishment as "oligarchs" at the service of the US.

Many Colombians are horrified that the guerrillas who confess their crimes won't spend any time in prison and will instead be allowed to serve out reduced sentences of no more than eight years helping rebuild communities hit by the conflict.

Meanwhile, the government is still fighting a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), whose ongoing kidnappings have derailed efforts to open peace negotiations.

jbh, blc/kl (dpa, AP, AFP)

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