June 22, 2016
Early this morning, the Colombian government and the FARC-EP reached a historic agreement for a bilateral ceasefire and on the concentration zones where FARC fighters will lay down their weapons, ending more than half a century of armed conflict. President Juan Manuel Santos, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Cuban President Raul Castro, among others, are expected to gather in Havana on Thursday for the signing of this latest agreement. A final peace deal is expected to follow soon, perhaps by July 20th. (More here.)
Just days ago, rumors of the incipient agreement began to garner steam. On Sunday night, President Juan Manuel Santos told members of his National Unity governing coalition, “I believe that by July 20 we will have been able to close the negotiations in Havana and from there enter a new stage for our country,” President Juan Manuel Santos told Congressional members of Sunday night. (More here.) No sooner had Santos made the statement, than Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, alias ‘Timochenko’, the head of the FARC-EP peace delegation called for prudence. He tweeted that “practice has demonstrated that setting dates hurts the process… although we are advancing, there’s not enough hair yet to make a bun.” (“aún falta pelo pal moño”.)
Subsequent news reports nonetheless had suggested that by week’s end there would be agreement on the terms of a bilateral ceasefire as well as on the number and nature of the temporary concentration zones where FARC soldiers and militias will stay while weapons are being turned in. (More here.) Those were the issues that had prevented the parties from reaching their self-imposed March 23 deadline earlier this year. (More here.)
Santos’s announcement of an imminent accord comes on the heels of two remarks this week that have caused a bit of a stir. First, the president warned that he had information that the FARC would return to urban warfare if a peace accord were not approved; two days later, he announced that he would need to increase taxes if the talks didn’t end satisfactorily.
Meanwhile, the parties have resumed their 50th cycle of peace talks in Havana. The cycle, originally scheduled to begin on Monday, was postponed to accommodate meetings between the Colombian negotiating team and its advisors in Bogotá. (See more here.) In addition, the ethnic delegation that was to have been received this week has run into some tensions when some of the Afro-Colombian leaders objected to elements of the process. (More here.)
At the peace table, the negotiators are now working to refine elements of agenda item three, ending the conflict. In an article in El Espectador, Gloria Castrillón gives a detailed summary of the pending issues related to ending the conflict. (Read it here.) This morning’s news reports from Bogota suggest that the agreement to be announced tomorrow includes sections relating to the steps to be taken for the ceasefire and end to the hostilities to go into effect, including the mechanisms for verification and the characteristics and number of concentration zones. According to El espectador, there will be 26 concentration zones, and 22 concentration zones have been agreed, according to El colombiano. There may be some further negotiating to be done…but the will to reach agreement is clearly at a peak, and dozens of pending decisions remain from the provisional agreements once the mechanisms for the ceasefire and laying aside weapons are finalized.
A press conference will be held this morning at 10 am Colombian time /11 am EST with further details.