Three years ago today, the government of Colombia and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas sat down in a room together to begin discussions – for a second time after talks in Mexico failed years before – about how to bring the over 50 years of civil war to an end.
The process that began three years ago has advanced much further than any other. The two sides have already reached landmark agreements, including the latest on victims rights and transitional justice, some of the more controversial and challenging points of discussion.
They have also reached agreements on the points of rural development, political participation and illegal drugs - meaning there has been success in four of the six points of the negotiation agenda.
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“We have worked hundred of hours with the conviction that Colombians deserve to live in peace,” said Colombian lawyer and politician Humberto de la Calle in a speech to mark the anniversary Thursday.
However, pressing issues remain to be discussed. Among them is the issue of continued paramilitary operations in the country, which continue to be a major cause of death and violence. The groups, otherwise known as death squads, were officially demobilized in 2003, however according to human rights organizations and on the ground reports, they continue to operate in several regions in the country.
The government and the FARC are facing more and more pressure to reach a final peace agreement soon, with a tentative date set for March 23, 2016.
“Today we are close to closing this painful and dark moment in our history,” said De la Calle.
However, the closing in on the final peace agreement does not come without its complications. The government of Colombia has been insisting that the final peace deal should go through a nation wide vote.
The FARC, however, continues to reject this proposal, and insists that a constituent assembly be implemented that would oversee the next few years of the country’s transition to peace.
The war in Colombia has been ongoing since the mid-1960's, in a battle that has roots in that agrarian movement from the early part of the century, as well as other social and political conflicts dating back for decades.
Over the years, the battle has grown to involve violent paramilitary groups, other guerrilla factions, the Colombian army as well as outside financial and military intervention. The fighting since the 1960s has left more than 220,000 people dead and millions more displaced from their homes or forcibly disappeared.
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