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FARC cease-fire

June 8, 2014

The rebel group FARC has declared a cease-fire during Colombia's upcoming presidential runoff. The election comes amid peace negotiations between Bogota and the rebels.

FARC rebels
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

FARC announced on Saturday that the cease-fire would begin at midnight on June 9 and run through the end of the month. The cease-fire was announced in a letter addressed to right-wing presidential challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.

"We want to tell the country, through you, our decision to declare another unilateral cease-fire for the occasion of the second round of elections to the presidency of the republic," read the letter, which was signed by FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko.

The leftist rebels had also declared a cease-fire during the first-round presidential election on May 25. Incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos won 26 percent of the vote while Zuluaga won 29 percent. A candidate must win 50 percent of the votes in order to avoid a runoff.

In 2012, Santos launched historic peace negotiations with FARC in Havana, aimed at ending five decades of civil war. Santos' supporters are generally supportive of negotiations with FARC, while Zuluaga's followers are more skeptical that the rebels will lay down their arms. The runoff will be held this Sunday.

Truth commission

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have perished in Latin America's longest-running armed conflict. On Saturday, the Colombian government and FARC agreed to set up a truth commission that would address the deaths.

"What we are announcing today is a historic step forward on the effort to put victims at the center of the (peace) process," said former Vice President Humberto de la Calle.

Preliminary truth commission hearings are set to begin next month. They will be held in several locations. Both sides promised in a joint statement that they would "not be trading blame."

"We are taking the first steps in a process full of thorny issues and enormous misunderstandings," FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez said.

Despite some progress in the peace talks, the negotiators still have to find a framework that would see FARC surrender its weapons. An agreement also has to be reached on how a comprehensive peace agreement should be enshrined in law.

slk/crh (AFP, Reuters)