11 Days Remaining

Wednesday 11th
posted by James Tweedie in World

COLOMBIA’S communist former rebels will form a “grand front” for peace in next year’s presidential elections, guerilla leader Timochenko has said.

His comments came before tomorrow’s resumption of the long-stalled peace talks with Colombia’s second-largest rebel army, the National Liberation Army (ELN), in Ecuador’s capital Quito.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) commander Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom-deguerre Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez, made his comments in an interview with Argentinian magazine Crisis.

He said the Farc — transforming itself into a political party in the wake of last year’s hard-won peace accord — will not put up a candidate from its own ranks for the 2018 presidential election.

“The decision we made is to drive a grand front that will unite all those who worked for peace in Colombia,” he said.

“The candidate will not be from the Farc, but a consensus figure who will guarantee the implementation of the accords reached in Havana.”

Four years of delicate talks between the Farc and President Juan Manuel Santos’s government, mediated by Cuba and Norway, led to the agreement and a ceasefire deal in August, ending more than 50 years of civil war.

But a national referendum narrowly rejected the deal — with former president and apologist for right-wing paramilitaries Alvaro Uribe leading the No campaign.

But the two sides returned to the negotiating table in Havana and Colombia’s congress overwhelmingly approved a revised accord in November.

“If the accord advances and those who oppose it do not manage to stop it, the Farc anticipates that it will enter democratic life,” Timochenko said. “This means reinsertion of its guerillas into the daily life of the cities and towns.”

The process of disarmament has been hindered by distrust following the killing of rebels intent on demobilisation in disputed ambushes.

“We have to demand an implementation within the framework, word by word, and in the spirit of the agreements reached in Havana between the Farc and the Colombian state,” the leader insisted. “Colombia deserves peace.”

On Sunday a statement from Bogota said that talks with the ELN in Quito, originally set for last October, would begin this week.

The negotiations were delayed by haggling over the release of ELN abductee Odin Sanchez and two imprisoned guerillas.

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