The peace talks have been bumpy and extended much longer than Santos or anyone else anticipated
In this Jan. 4, 2016, file photo, Juliana, 20 (L) and Mariana, 24, rebel soldiers for the 36th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, listen to a commander speak on the peace negotiations between the rebels and the Colombian government, in a hidden camp in Antioquia state, in the northwest Andes of Colombia. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday, June 21, that his government may reach an agreement on a bilateral ceasefire with leftist rebels as early as this week. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd,File), photo: AP/Rodrigo Abd, File
22 of June 2016 10:46:55
HAVANA — Colombia's government and leftist rebels announced Wednesday that they have reached a deal on a ceasefire that would be the last major step toward ending Latin America's oldest guerrilla war.President Juan Manuel Santos will travel to Cuba Thursday to unveil details of the agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced he also would be present to witness the signing of the deal.The presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Chile — the three nations sponsoring the now almost four-year-old peace talks in Havana — were also expected, and the Obama administration was sending its special envoy to the talks, former diplomat Bernard Aronson.[caption id="attachment_23247" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Marco León Calarca (C) member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, talks to reporters accompanied by the head of press of the delegation of the Colombian government Marcela Duran (L) during the announcement of a deal on bilateral ceasefire in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Photo: Cubadebate, via AP[/caption]Colombia's conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions since 1964. But a 15-year, U.S.-backed military offensive thinned the rebels' ranks and forced its aging leaders to the negotiating table in 2012.Momentum had been building toward a breakthrough after Santos said this week that he hoped to end a half-century of bloodshed by July 20, marking Colombia's declaration of independence from Spain.But Wednesday's agreement went further than expected, removing all doubt that a final deal is around the corner.In addition to announcing a framework for the ceasefire, both sides said they agreed on how the FARC's estimated 7,000 fighters will demobilize and hand over their weapons, as well as the security guarantees that will be provided to leftist activists after the conflict ends. Negotiators in January tasked the U.N. with monitoring adherence to an eventual ceasefire and resolving disputes emerging from the demobilization.With the latest advances, only few minor pending items remain, the biggest being how the final deal will be ratified and given legal force so that it won't unravel should a more conservative government succeed Santos, who leaves office in 2018.
MIKE WEISSENSTEINJOSH GOODMAN