A unilateral FARC ceasefire has been announced amid increasing fighting and ongoing peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government.
The announcement was made by Ivan Marquez, FARC’s chief negotiator in the ongoing peace talks with the government. He said that he hoped the government would join the ceasefire, which is slated to start July 20, Colombia’s independence day.
The Colombian government has given no sign that it will honor the ceasefire, claiming that FARC laying down its weapons is not enough. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has repeatedly said that Colombia would not honor a ceasefire until a final peace deal is signed.
“We appreciate the gesture of a unilateral ceasefire by the FARC but more is needed, especially concrete commitments to speed up the negotiations,” responded Santos to the FARC announcement, via Twitter.
For Santos, not honoring the ceasefire is the most politically palatable option. Public opinion toward FARC throughout Colombia is low, with less than 10% of Colombians wanting an immediate bilateral ceasefire, according to a recent Datexco poll. The animosity toward FARC is so high that almost half of those polled favored ceasing the peace talks altogether. However, that poll was conducted before a recent Human Rights Watch report was released, claiming that executions of civilians in order to bolster military kill counts were more widespread than previously believed and involved top military officials. The report’s claims will likely hamper some of the government’s support.
Despite the president’s hard-line position, rumors that the government could be close to joining the ceasefire persist. After years of negotiations and several agreements on key issues, the peace talks have slowed considerably, and a bilateral ceasefire could help reignite the negotiations.
A bilateral ceasefire and a final peace deal could help Colombia rectify its undeserved reputation as a hotbed of violence. According to police statistics, 2014 saw the lowest number of murders Colombia has experienced since 1984—the height of cartel leader Pablo Escobar’s power, when he had the country’s justice minister murdered. An end to the fighting with FARC would be just one more sign that Colombia is not the violent country that many still think it is.
In a break from the government’s stance, Humberto de Akal, Colombia’s chief negotiator in the peace talks, said in June that the government may be ready to accept a bilateral ceasefire even before a final deal is reached.
This isn’t the first unilateral FARC ceasefire called by the group. The previous ceasefire lasted from December 2014 until May 22 but ended after a Colombian military strike killed 26 FARC members in retaliation for an attack that killed 10 Colombian soldiers. FARC leadership denied the attack was carried out by their forces, though many believe rogue elements of FARC were responsible.
The 50-year-old conflict between FARC and the Colombian government has left more than 200,000 killed and millions displaced.