Daily Telegraph on August 20, 2013, reported that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) have for the first time admitted they bear partial blame for the bloodshed that has wracked the South American country for half a century, in what represents a significant step in efforts to negotiate a historic peace accord. Excerpts below:
The leftist guerillas acknowledged that they had brought “brutality and pain” to the Colombian people while battling successive governments in what is of the world’s longest running civil conflicts.
The admission marks a major advance in peace negotiations with the government of Juan Manuel Santos, which began in Havana at the end of last year.
“Without doubt, there has been brutality and pain provoked from our ranks,” the rebel group said in a statement read by Pablo Catatumbo, a member of the Farc peace delegation.
The conflict has not only brought terror to Colombia and its neighbours but has in large measure fuelled the cocaine trade which supplies some 90 per cent of the drug found on the streets of the United States. Fighting from bases in the Colombian jungle, the Farc turned to cocaine production to fund their armed insurgency, helping establish the country as the world’s leading producer of the class A narcotic – a mantle only recently lost to Peru amid large scale US-backed military and drug eradication efforts.
A recent report by the National Centre of Historic Remembrance found that from 1958 until 2012, the conflict resulted in 220,000 killings, over 5.7 million forced displacements, 25,000 disappeared and 27,000 kidnappings.
While the Farc have been significantly weakened by the Washington-backed military offensive, they retain control of large swathes of Colombia’s more isolated jungle regions and remain capable of mounting damaging attacks on the Colombian armed forces.
Mr Santos has eyed the end of this year as a deadline for a peace accord, which would involve the rebels laying down their arms and becoming a political force.