Top ranking Colombian guerrilla joins Havana peace talks

Signaling a possible shift in the peace negotiations, new FARC guerrillas have arrived in Cuba.

Top ranking Colombian guerrilla joins Havana peace talks

World Bulletin/News Desk

Colombian authorities on Friday confirmed that one of the FARC guerrilla’ most senior military figures is in Havana to join the rebel negotiating team currently engaged in peace dialogues with the Colombian government.

The arrival of Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias Romaña, has caused some concern as he is responsible for numerous atrocities including kidnapping, terrorism, recruitment of minors, homicides and drug trafficking. He was also involved in the capture of the city of Mitu in 1998, the departmental capital of Vaupes, that resulted in the deaths of 16 police, 24 soldiers, 11 civilians and the taking of 61 hostages. Romaña is believed to be around 53 years of age and to have joined the guerrillas in the early 1980s.

In addition to Romaña, this week six other guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, also went to Cuba, possibly signalling a change in the direction of the negotiations, as each have specific backgrounds in military and political roles within the rebel group that will enable the commencement of discussions on transitional justice and the laying down of weapons.

One of the new arrivals, the guerrilla known by his alias Pastor Alape, has expressed via FARC's website that, “there are signs and expectations of peace.”

All of this comes at a time when tensions between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and former President Alvaro Uribe are at an all-time high. Sen. Uribe has been outspoken in his criticism of the peace talks calling the transfer of the guerrillas to Cuba as “another blow to the armed forces and further risks to national security.”

But Santos has remained firm, backing the ongoing negotiations that will complete two years in November and will shortly enter its 30th round of discussions. So far, the issues of land reform, political participation and illicit drugs have been discussed while the topic of victims’ rights is continuing.

“Of course the FARC has to disband. I am not going to accept that an armed group is involved in politics for any reason,” Santos said during a press conference Thursday in response to some of  Uribe’s accusations.

“Everything is possible if the FARC in reality make the decision of ceasing to be a criminal outfit and are willing to accept that they are the victimizers and they must respect the rights of the victims. I guarantee that if the conditions are not right, there will be no peace process,” Santos continued.

According to Human Rights Watch, since 1954 the Colombian armed conflict has caused the deaths of an estimated 220,000 people and displaced more than 5 million. The negotiations, which began in November 2012, are seen as the most likely way of ending the conflict and in early November Santos will be touring European capitals in an attempt to secure financial and political support for a post conflict situation.  


Last Mod: 24 Ekim 2014, 22:19
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