Peace talks resumed Tuesday between the Colombian government and the country’s largest leftist rebel group with a proposal to allow victims of the armed conflict to be present at the talks in Havana, Cuba.
The government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been engaged in the negotiations since November 2012, but the talks were paused for nearly a month for June’s presidential elections. Incumbent Juan Manuel Santos, who framed the election as a referendum on the dialogues, narrowly won over right-wing challenger Oscar Iván Zuluaga. With his new mandate, Santos seemed eager in a Tuesday press conference for the talks to resume.
“We want to speed up the process, if there is the will, I think that we can bring it to an end,” Santos said. He cautioned, though, “I do not want to because it is counterproductive to put a date on any potential agreement because it automatically becomes difficult.”
The dialogues have a fixed agenda of topics to address. The negotiators have already reached agreements on agrarian reform, political participation for FARC members and the illicit drug trade. The issues of victims, disarmament and the process for implementing the accords still must be addressed.
The topic of victims, currently under discussion, has been a particularly contentious issue. Human rights and victims’ organizations in Colombia have criticized the lack of any presence of victims in the dialogues, saying it is impossible to reach a valid accord without including the voices of the victims themselves.
During the monthlong recess, the government negotiating team, led by Humberto de la Calle, had traveled through Colombia to meet with groups representing victims and hear their concerns. The meetings appear to have made an impression, as de la Calle demonstrated a new commitment to allowing greater participation of victims.
In an audio recording released Tuesday by Colombia’s presidency, de la Calle said that “we have come to Havana with a concrete proposal to allow for the presence of the victims in the talks.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press