Colombia has confirmed the release of a group of imprisoned rebels, another breakthrough as part of a peace process that could end Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.
President Juan Manuel Santos said late last year that he would pardon a group of 30 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as a confidence-building gesture.
On Wednesday night, NGOs working with the rebels and a government official confirmed that a contingent had been released.
In a recent interview, given just days before Santos is set to travel to the U.S. to meet with President Barack Obama, the mandate expressed that the FARC should be moved from a terrorist list it has been on for almost two decades, alongside such groups as al-Qaida.
“If they sign it’s because we have a timetable for their disarmament and they have committed themselves to lay down their arms and make this transition to legal life. So I would say yes, I hope that they would be eliminated from the terror list,” Santos said.
In the same vein, Santos said he would like to see the U.S. follow his lead in Colombia and suspend arrest warrants against the FARC’s top leadership.
“Any effort by the United States to allow us to apply transitional justice, for example by suspending the arrest warrants, would help us tremendously,” he said. “But let’s be very clear: if they don’t behave, they’ll be extradited.”
Three-year-long peace deals between the FARC and Colombian government are nearing conclusion, with a proposed March deal set to end nearly 50 years of internal armed conflict.