Cease-fire reached in Colombia’s half-century civil war
U.S. hails talks to tame FARC
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and regional leaders were set to descend on Havana last week to celebrate what could be the last major step toward ending the Western Hemisphere’s longestrunning war, as Colombia’s government and leftist FARC rebels sign a much-anticipated cease-fire and disarmament deal.
While the agreement comes months after a self-imposed March deadline set by the two sides, U.S. officials hailed the development as “an important step forward” in the elusive effort to formally end a guerrilla war that has killed more than 220,000 people, displaced millions of Colombians over the past half-century and proved a source of instability and drug trafficking across Latin America.
“Sometimes diplomacy, particularly this kind of difficult diplomacy, takes time and takes a lot of hard work,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby, adding that U.S. officials are especially grateful to Colombian President Juan Santos for the “effort that he put in to get the process this far.”
But Mr. Kirby also said President Obama’s own pursuit of diplomatic detente with the leftist Castro regime in Cuba — a longtime backer of the FARC — had a key impact on the negotiations. “Certainly it helped foster a better climate,” Mr. Kirby said. “But there isn’t one factor here that got us to this point.”
Originally founded as a Marxist peasant insurgency in Colombia, the FARC — the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — is widely believed to control some 60 percent of the nation’s illicit cocaine trade.
While Washington spent more than $10 billion in the past 15 years on a counternarcotics effort to help Colombia’s military and police weaken and kill several top FARC commanders, analysts say, Mr. Santos, who staked his 2014 re-election campaign on reaching peace with the group, deserves the lion’s share of the credit for this week’s developments.
The majority of Colombians alive today have never known their country to be undivided and at peace.
“The disarmament and cease-fire agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC is a breakthrough that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago,” said Jason Marczak, who heads the Latin America Economic Growth Initiatives at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.