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The Colombian government and the leftist rebel group FARC announced Wednesday that they had reached a bilateral ceasefire, a development being heralded as the signal of the end of over five decades of bloody conflict.
"We have successfully reached an agreement for a definitive bilateral ceasefire and end to hostilities," both sides said in a joint statement read in Havana, where peace talks have been taking place for three years.
The accord, Reuters reports, "brings into sight an end to a conflict that began as a 1960s peasant revolt before exploding into a cocaine-fueled war that has killed at least 220,000 people and displaced millions." It also follows, as the Associated Press notes, "a 15-year, U.S.-backed military offensive" targeting FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
both sides said they agreed on how the FARC's estimated 7,000 fighters will demobilize and hand over their weapons, as well as the security guarantees that will be provided to leftist activists after the conflict ends. Negotiators in January tasked the U.N. with monitoring adherence to an eventual cease-fire and resolving disputes emerging from the demobilization.
A final peace deal is expected to be signed July 20, according to President Juan Manuel Santos.
"Today is a wonderful day," said Piedad Cordoba, a peace activist and former Colombian senator. "For those who worked for peace when doing so was a crime, to achieve the end of the war is a poetic victory. What immense joy.”
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But, as Mario Murillo, professor of Radio, Television, Film at Hofstra University and author of Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest, and Destabilization, told Democracy Now! on Thursday, the ceasefire, while "an incredible moment in Colombian history" and "the beginning of the end of military conflict between the government and FARC rebels, it is not necessarily the end of the war."
"It's going to be a long process of implementation, and of also securing the many different points of the agenda," and "people have to remain really vigilant to make sure that they are indeed followed up on," he added.
The U.S. designates FARC a terrorist organization, and has aided Colombia with a covert CIA program in its fight against the group.
Murillo also spoke about the U.S. involvement in the country over the past several decades, telling Democracy Now! that
part of the argument that the FARC laid out in 1964, 52 years ago, when they were mobilizing and carrying out their initial attempts at land reform and justice and political participation—the same issues that were being negotiated in Havana—they pointed out that if there was a political solution that was looked for and searched for back in the 1960s, based on their demands that were representative of the countryside, of the demands of the people in the countryside, the peasantry, there wouldn’t be a FARC. Now, some people could say that’s historical revisionism, that, obviously, so many things have happened over those 52 years. But what happened was that the United States, under the Johnson administration, insisted on a military solution to the uprising that was taking place in the countryside in Colombia at that time—fear of another Cuba in South America. And obviously that was the approach. And then—that was in the 1960s.
In the 1980s, which was just referred to in terms of how the peace process at that time was trying to politically insert the FARC through the Patriotic Union into the landscape of electoral politics and political participation, the response was a military response, massacring 3,000 to 4,000 militants of the UP. And it was with the support of the Reagan administration and the, you know, CIA in military involvement then. And then—and this is something that [Colombia’s former High Commissioner for Peace] Daniel García-Peña is very clear about—in the 1990s, late '90s and early ’80s, which he initiated in part of those last negotiations, the attempt was—when they were just about to negotiate and begin a process of peace back then, the response was Plan Colombia, militarization, strengthening the armed forces. And now people are, you know, historically looking at it and saying, "Well, the U.S.—if it wasn't for the U.S. support, we wouldn’t have gotten to this point." But if it—but the bottom line is, 15 years have passed since those previous negotiations. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions displaced. And so, we have to say, what has been the result of those last 15 years of war, that might have been resolved had they looked at other options?
Watch the full discussion in the Democracy Now! video below: