The head of the delegation of the Colombian government for the peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Humberto de la Calle (R) delivers a speech during the announcement by the Colombian government and FARC of reaching the final peace agreement, in Havana, Cuba, on Aug. 24, 2016. The Colombian government and the insurgent FARC announced on Wednesday that they have reached the final peace agreement to conclude the peace negotiations that have been held since November 2012 in Havana. (Xinhua/COLPRENSA)
by Chris Dalby, Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- After four years of peace talks, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) finalized their peace agreement on Wednesday.
This marks an end to the five-decade long conflict in Colombia which left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced.
Very few world leaders ever get a chance to declare the end to a long and painful conflict. That opportunity fell to Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos who addressed the nation after the deal was signed.
"Today, I speak to you with a deep emotion and great happiness. Today marks the end of suffering and pain, the end of the tragedy of war. On Aug. 24, 2016...this national hope has become reality," said a jubilant Santos.
"We have reached a final, complete and definite agreement to put an end to the war of the FARC," he added.
According to the president, "the FARC will cease to exist and will become a political movement without guns."
He vowed that there would be no impunity for those responsible for the worst crimes, either in the FARC or in Colombia's armed forces. However, Santos pledged that members of the FARC, once they lay down their weapons, will be able to enter democratic political life.
In a major statement, Santos revealed that "the FARC has promised to break off all links they may have had with drug trafficking and to collaborate...to the solution of this problem."
The next stage of the peace process will come on Oct. 2, when the Colombian people will vote in a plebiscite as to whether to accept or reject the contents of the agreement.
To allow the Colombian people to vote fully informed, Santos said that the full text of the agreement will be published on Thursday in the media, on government websites and on social networks.
"We can close the chapter of the war with the FARC and begin the new chapter of peace," he vowed.
Before Santos' address, negotiators from the Colombian government and the FARC, accompanied by observers, revealed the agreement had been finalized in a ceremony in Havana, Cuba, where talks have been held since November 2012.
"Today, we have met the challenge. The signing of a final agreement with the FARC guerrillas has ended the war. This marks a new beginning," said the Colombian government's chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle during his speech at the presentation of the peace agreement. "It is the moment to give peace a chance."
"We all would have liked something more, but this is the best degree possible," added de la Calle. "The guns will not remain in the hands of the FARC."
The agreement means the FARC will begin to transform into a legitimate political party, which de la Calle invited to compete equally for the support of the Colombian people, once it completed its responsibilities in the agreement.
The FARC's top envoy to the talks, Ivan Marquez, said that "we have concluded the most beautiful of all battles, building the basis for peace."
Shortly before the announcement, the FARC issued a video interview with their leader, Timoleon Jimenez, alias Timochenko, saying that "the uncertainty is over. The last few days have seen hard work. I understand the expectations and worries of every Colombian as to whether we would reach this agreement or not."
Timochenko said that Colombia "must not go back to murdering anyone, kidnapping anyone... We will begin building this country together, from today."
The peace deal commits Colombia's government to carrying out aggressive land reforms, reorient its anti-narcotics strategy, allow the FARC to become a legitimate political party, and protect demobilized rebels and leftist activists, who have traditionally been targeted by right-wing paramilitary groups.
The FARC has agreed to a six-month disarmament process with its troops gathering at a number of "safe zones" across Colombia to surrender their weapons under the UN supervision.
Now, the agreement must be approved by the Colombian people in the plebiscite. Santos has been buoyed by a survey conducted by polling firm Invamer released on Aug. 16, which showed that 67.5 percent of Colombians would vote in favor of the peace deal, with 32.5 percent opposing it.
Should the people vote in favor of the agreement, it will be presented to Congress for ratification.
Leading the opposition, former president Alvaro Uribe has regularly lambasted Santos for giving too much away.
One provision of the deal is that any guerrilla fighters or Colombian soldiers confessing to crimes would be spared jail sentences and face amnesty.
This has proved unpopular with a certain section of Colombian society, which fears some people may not be punished for crimes of murder.
HAVANA, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Colombian government and the guerrilla group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), agreed on Friday to create a tribunal to prosecute war crimes committed during the country's decades-long armed conflict.
The parties announced the tribunal in a joint statement in Havana, where negotiators have been holding peace talks since 2012 to yield a final peace agreement to end the conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people.Full story
HAVANA, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- The Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla announced on Friday a protocol and time-frame to implement the ceasefire and disarmament agreements signed in June.
Under the protocol which will be supervised by the UN, FARC troops will come together at 26 locations around Colombia and will hand over their weapons within six months after a final peace deal is inked by both parties.Full story