Colombia and FARC rebels agree on key peace issue
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The Colombian government and FARC rebels announced on Wednesday that they had reached an agreement over the key issue of the guerrilla’s political future if peace is reached, with now four more points left on the negotiating agenda.
The Colombian government and FARC rebels announced Wednesday they had struck an unprecedented agreement on the future political transition of the guerrilla group as part of ongoing peace negotiations in Cuba, nearly one year after talks began.
“What we have agreed to deepens and strengthens our democracy,” said the joint statement read by diplomats who are facilitating the process in Havana. "It includes guarantees for the political opposition, measures to promote citizen participation and it contemplates revising the Colombian electoral system after a final peace agreement is signed.”
The new deal is the second of a 6-point agenda for the negotiations, and hinges upon the ability to reach a final “all or nothing” pact to end the armed civil conflict - the only remaining one in Latin America.
'A true democracy'
Top rebel negotiator Ivan Marquez said the agreement on political participation would give Colombians “the possibility of beginning to open the door to a true democracy,” even while admitting there was “a long way to go” in the talks.
Speaking shortly before the deal was announced in Havana, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Colombia would soon be “a normal country, a country with peace.”
The Marxist-inspired FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, aspire to become a political party once peace has been reached with the government.
The two sides agreed on the issue of land reform and rural development, the first item of the agenda, in May.
The Santos administration and FARC leaders were eager to show that progress was being made in Havana as criticism about the process mounted at home.
Indeed, this latest round of talks that concluded with the political participation deal on Wednesday was extended by several days to hammer out the final details.
With elections looming next year, presidential hopeful Oscar Ivan Zuluaga has bought billboard space to undermine the negotiations.
“Tell the truth President Santos: What are you going to hand over to the FARC?” provocatively asked one of Zuluaga’s billboards.
Zuluaga has been endorsed by former president Alvaro Uribe, who originally hails from Santos’ party, but who has openly rejected peace talks and recently launched his own political movement.
Negotiators said they will next tackle the issue of drugs, but did not give a precise date for the next round of talks.