The negotiating teams were back at work this morning in Havana after having reached agreement on rural agrarian reforms at the end of the last round of talks. (See my earlier blog posts.) It’s been a busy day.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced earlier today that he had called on the Venezuelan Council of State to review Venezuelan-Colombian relations and provide guidance on the path forward. (See “Maduro Ordena a Consejo de Estado”). Tensions between the two countries had flared in the wake of a May 29 visit by Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles to the Casa de Nariño in Bogotá, as well as recent charges of assassination plots involving Colombian paramilitary forces in Venezuela. For now, these tensions have been set aside, arrests have been made, and Maduro seems to have reaffirmed Venezuela’s role in the peace talks (notwithstanding the future recommendations of the Council of State on the matter).
At the Palacio de Convenciones in Havana this morning, Iván Márquez, head of the FARC delegation, called for a postponement of Colombia’s elections. (See “Farc pide aplazar elecciones y el Gobierno rechaza la propuesta”). Colombia’s electoral season is scheduled to begin late this year culminating in presidential elections in May 2014. The FARC has consistently cautioned against an “express peace” that is too contingent on electoral politics. “We are conscious that the progress of such a transcendental accord cannot be dictated by electoral periods and legislative deadlines.” said Márquez. He called for a national debate and a Constituent Assembly (provided for in Article 376 of the Constitution) to extend the electoral term and postpone the elections of all councilmen and women, mayors, representatives, governors, Congresspeople, senators, and the President for one year. He also called for consideration of additional themes in the Constituyente, such as juridical guarantees for former combatants, judicial reform, restructuring of departments, and the creation of a truth commission.
The government’s head negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, responded with a statement calling on the negotiating teams to stick to the agreed agenda items and not be distracted, and President Santos, on an official State visit to Israel, rejected the proposed change in the electoral calendar as completely out of hand and pledged to carry out the current electoral calendar.
Following the FARC statement, Humberto de la Calle read his own statement, outlining the government’s expectations for this next round of talks, which would focus on the next item on the agenda–political participation and citizen participation. In every peace process, De la Calle noted, insurgents are transformed into legal political movements and ideas come to prevail over arms. He pledged that the experience of the Unión Patriótica, where some three thousand ex-militants, including two presidential candidates, were killed, would not be repeated, and that the parties will discuss what measures might provide effective guarantees and an even playing field for the opposition, as well as promote greater democratic participation of the citizenry, particularly in local communities.
Finally, the Government of Colombia and the FARC negotiating teams issued their 17th joint statement. They noted that they would be using the model that they had found effective in arriving at the agrarian development agreements, and would be working independently this week focusing on the topic of political participation. The teams planned to study a variety of documents including those that were prepared as a result of the recent forum on political participation organized by the UNDP and the Centro de Pensamiento para la Paz of the Universidad Nacional. The table in Havana will also receive spokespersons from both of those institutions during this round of talks.