Colombian peace talks plagued by force reduction rumors

Peace talks between the FARC guerrillas and Colombia government enter 24th round but rumors of military force reductions take the focus off the established agenda.

Colombian peace talks plagued by force reduction rumors

World Bulletin / News Desk

Rumors that negotiations are underway to reduce the number of soldiers in the Colombian armed forces are taking the focus from the agreed agenda as the 24th round of peace dialogues between FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government commences in Havana, Cuba.

The on-going peace dialogue between FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the Colombian government’s negotiating team, headed by former vice-president Humberto de la Calle, began in 2012 and has an established negotiating agenda which includes topics such as land reform and reconciliation. The topic for the current round is the illicit cocaine trade.

But persistent rumors of military and police force reductions have forced a denial from de la Calle, detracting attention from the negotiations themselves.

“I can categorically confirm that none of this is true,” said de la Calle in a press conference, “we have neither discussed nor negotiated, nor will we in the future a reduction in the number of armed forces or police.”

Given the lack of transparency to the peace talks and the existing rumors, a group by the name of Acore (the Colombian Association of Retired Military Officials) declared themselves on April 21 in support of the right wing Centro Democratico party (Democratic Center) represented by candidate presidential candidate Oscar Zuluaga in the elections on May 25.

“The motherland is bleeding, for this reason we join the campaign for liberty and justice,” said ex commander of the Colombian armed forces General Harold Bedoya Pizarro at the April 21 meeting between Acore and Zuluaga in Bogota.

Given the damage that may be caused to his campaign for re-election, even President Juan Manuel Santos was prompted to make a statement on the rumors of force reduction.

“They are telling soldiers that we are going to reduce their numbers, or policemen that their pensions will be taken from them and given to guerrillas,” said President Santos in an interview with the BBC. “They are waging a dirty war and my job is to set the record straight.”

Colombia’s internal armed conflict has caused the deaths of approximately 220,000 Colombians since 1958, 81.5 percent of whom were civilians, according to a report published in 2013 by the government-created National Center for Historical Memory.

Last Mod: 25 Nisan 2014, 10:31
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