LATIN AMERICA

FARC declares 30-day ceasefire following car bomb attack

Colombian government refuses to stop its military offensive against insurgency

Pablo Catatumbo and Iván Márquez announce temporary ceasefire in Havana. / E. Mastrascusa (EFE)

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Sunday announced a 30-day ceasefire beginning on December 15.

“In a unilateral manner, we are ordering all our guerrilla units to cease hostilities for 30 days beginning at midnight on December 15,” FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo said at a news conference in Havana, where the insurgency and government are holding peace talks. Reading from a statement by the FARC leadership, Catatumbo said that the guerrillas will continue to keep their guard up. “At the same time we are ordering our troops to be on the alert for whatever action is taken by the enemy and to respond without any hesitation. But we hold out hope that the national government will follow suit and order a halt in its offensive.”

The ceasefire announcement came after the FARC had claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack on Saturday morning that left eight people dead — six of them law enforcement officers — at a police station in Inzá, southwest Colombia.

While such attacks have not affected the ongoing negotiations that began in November 2012 — because the two sides never agreed to ceasefires — the continuing violence has disappointed many Colombians who believe that any end to the 50-year-old insurgency is still far off.

President Juan Manuel Santos has said that the government will not call off its own offensive until a deal is signed.

Government officials and FARC representatives have partially agreed on two issues from a six-point peace agenda. Currently, thorny subjects such as drug trafficking and political participation, are being discussed behind closed doors in the Cuban capital.

Senate speaker Juan Fernando Cristo said that the ongoing violence by the FARC while talks are being held is “unacceptable.” Former President Álvaro Uribe, a strong critic of Santos, said on his Twitter account that the FARC’s ceasefire announcement is “a vile game being played with Colombia.”

“They murder and now they try to hide behind a peace treaty,” the former president said.

Uribe and Santos — who were once political allies — have had fallen out over the current president’s bid to seek a peace deal with the guerrillas.

On Saturday, during a security meeting in Popayán, the capital of Cauca department, Santos warned the FARC that the government will not end its offensive. “We cannot keep our guard down, not even for one minute. The military offensive will continue until we reach a peace accord. Then we will think about the steps will we take for a ceasefire,” Santos said.

This is the second time that the FARC has declared a ceasefire since the peace negotiations began last year. The group called for a two-month cease in hostilities last Christmas.

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