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“Peace is possible and is closer than ever”
Latinamerica Press
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President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño announced that within six months a peace agreement should be signed.

In a period of no longer than six months,  ending Mar. 23, 2016, the definitive peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), should be signed, announced President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel commander Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timoleón Jiménez or Timochenko, in Havana, Cuba.

The negotiations towards a “General Agreement for the Termination of Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Enduring Peace,” which would put an end to more than a half century of armed conflict which has left more than 300,000 dead and 5 million displaced, were initiated in Havana in 2012.

In a joint press conference in which the Cuban President, Raúl Castro, participated, Santos declared that “the chief of the FARC secretariat and I have agreed that no later than six months the negotiations should be finished. That is to say, no later than March 23, 2016, the final accord should be signed.”

Through social networks, Santos reiterated that “we are near the end of the longest armed conflict that Colombia has lived. We will ensure that never be repeated again. We still have to conclude the last issues, but the conclusion is one: Peace is possible and is closer than ever.”

Londoño, for his part, affirmed that “the parties have to increase their efforts towards the creation of consensus on both sides that will bring us closer to a definitive, bilateral ceasefire, determine the laying down of arms and the transformation of the FARC into a legal, political movement.”

The meeting was held three days after the visit of Pope Francis to Cuba, during which he invoked both parties to negotiate peace: “Please, we do not have the right to allow another failure in the path towards peace and reconciliation.”

In a joint statement published on Sept. 23, the Colombian government and the FARC reaffirmed their commitment to the agreements reached up to that date: “Towards a new rural Colombia: Integral Rural Reform,” “Political Participation: Democratic opening to build peace” and “Solution to the Problem of Illicit Drugs.”

Transitional justice
Both parties reaffirmed their commitment “to a formula that meets the rights of the victims and contribute to the construction of a stable and lasting peace. Towards this end we are developing a Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition” that will include the creation of a Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition, in addition to important agreements on reparations for the victims.

Santos and Londoño also announced an agreement for transitional justice which includes amnesty for political crimes with the exception of grave violations of human rights, creation of a special jurisdiction for peace, and the surrender of arms on the part of the FARC within sixty days after the signing of the final agreement.

The special jurisdiction for peace, which will be made up of Colombian and foreign judges, will judge the crimes against humanity and crimes of war. Those combatants who demobilize within 60 days after the signing of the peace agreements and admit their crimes could face sentences of up to eight years “of effective restriction of liberty under special conditions,” states the agreement.

However, those who refuse to admit their responsibility in crimes against humanity and result guilty could face sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

Fabrizio Hochschild, United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Colombia, celebrated “the fact that there is a date to end the conflict. Finally the government and the FARC are in agreement on a timeline. Scarcely six months to put an end to a 50-year conflict looks favorably to us and hopefully nurture the hope of the country.”

 “The justice accord is a sign for us that the parties are going to comply with the international treaties regarding the victims,” he added. “It has to be recognized that many details have to be solved, and we understand the concerns that has been raised, but we want to highlight that there is a commitment for a supportive and comprehensive justice that emphasizes reparation, non-repetition and a contribution to the truth, as comprehensive elements to justice.”
– Latinamerica Press 

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