A permanent ceasefire has taken effect in Colombia, the latest step in bringing an end to 52 years of bloody combat between the government and the country’s biggest rebel group.
The commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia announced that his fighters ceased hostilities beginning at 12.01am yesterday as a result of the peace accord the sides reached last week.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos made a similar announcement, saying the military would halt attacks on the Farc beginning yesterday.
Farc leader Rodrigo Londono made his announcement in Havana, where rebel and government negotiators talked for four years to reach the deal on ending one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.
“Never again will parents be burying their sons and daughters killed in the war,” said Londono.
“All rivalries and grudges will remain in the past.”
Colombia is expected to hold a national referendum on October 2 to give voters the chance to approve the accord, which would end political violence that has claimed more than 220,000 lives and driven more than 5m people from their homes over five decades.
Top Farc commanders are planning to gather one final time in mid-September to ratify the deal.
Under the 297-page accord, Farc guerrillas are supposed to turn over their weapons within six months after the deal is formally signed.
In return, Farc’s still unnamed future political movement will be given a minimum 10 congressional seats — five in the lower house, five in the senate — for two legislative periods.
In addition, 16 lower-house seats will be created for grassroots activists in rural areas traditionally neglected by the state and in which existing political parties will be banned from running candidates.
Critics of the peace process contend that will further boost the rebels’ post-conflict political power.
After 2026, both arrangements would end and the former rebels would have to demonstrate their political strength at the ballot box.
Not all hostilities are ending under the deal with Farc. The much smaller National Liberation Army remains active, although it is pursuing its own peace deal with the government.
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