The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said it would lay down its weapons for an unlimited period to bolster peace talks that have been held in Cuba for the past two years.
But Latin America’s oldest and strongest insurgency also said it would call off the ceasefire if its units were attacked by Colombia’s US-backed military — a condition that appears to have doomed the gesture given the government’s long-standing refusal to enter a bilateral truce for fear it would give the rebels time to re-arm.
Those concerns were again apparent when President Juan Manuel Santos said he could not accept the rebels’ demand the truce be verified by several Latin American nations and the international Red Cross.
Such outside verification would have to wait until a deal to end 50 years of hostilities is reached, he said.
Santos said he would continue to fulfil his constitutional duty to protect and guarantee the safety of all Colombians.
Nevertheless, he said he “values” the rebels’ gesture as a way to begin de-escalating a conflict that still claims hundreds of civilian lives every year and is fuelled by the smuggling of cocaine and other criminal activity.
It is unclear where the government’s response leaves the ceasefire, due to take effect at midnight tomorrow.
Although FARC has declared temporary ceasefires before, around Christmas and elections, this would be the first time it has offered to indefinitely lay down its weapons nationwide since the 1980s.