TODAY COLOMBIA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said today (Wednesday) in Havana to have reached a breakthrough with the leader of the FARC, Timoleom Jimenez, alias “Timochenko,” bringing the country to the verge peace.
Santos said an agreement on “transitional justice”could be signed “no later than six months” – March 2016.
Santos spoke to the delegation of negotiators, representatives of the guarantor countries and members of the FARC secretariat, in the convention centre of the Cuban capital.
The two sides began formal negotiations in 2012 on ending the 50-year-old conflict. Wednesday’s ceremony marked the first time Santos has appeared beside Timochenko , the elusive FARC commander who previously surfaced in videos recorded from his jungle hideouts.
With Cuban President Raúl Castro between them, Santos said he and Timochenko had told their negotiating teams to reach a final agreement within six months.
“We must break once and for all any link between politics and weapons,” he told a room packed with Colombian journalists and politicians.
“It will not be an easy task because many difficult issues are still left to be agreed, but that is the direction we have given our delegations,” said the Colombian president, who made a stopover in Havana.
In the last five decades, more than 220,000 Colombians have been killed in the three-way violence between the left-wing guerrillas, the government and right-wing paramilitary groups. At least 6 million Colombians have been forced to flee their homes.
The agreement announced Wednesday breaks an impasse over the most sensitive element of the talks, namely whether guerrillas who lay down their weapons would be subject to criminal prosecution, prison terms and potential extradition to the United States.
In the joint statement by Santos and Timochenko, the two sides have agreed that the government will grant the FARC members “the broadest possible amnesty for political and related crimes”, but excluding crimes against humanity such as genocide, war crimes, hostage-taking, torture, forced displacement and sexual violence.”
The deal would also establish a truth-and-reconciliation process through which guerrillas and Colombian military commanders accused of rights abuses would be required to confess their crimes at special tribunals.
Colombia would also establish a system of special tribunals designed for all of those affected by the conflict, combatants and non-combatants . . . built on the basis of reparation and non-repetition of conflict.
“Now we must work to build consensus” toward a peace deal, he Tominchenko, “and work to transform FARC into a legal political movement.”
The announcement in Havana came three days after Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the city’s Plaza de la Revolucion with a plea to Colombians to “achieve definitive reconciliation” in the peace talks to end “the long night of pain and violence.”
The official statement (in Spanish) can be read here.
Article first appeared at Todaycolombia.com