Colombia, FARC to announce bilateral cease-fire

By Richard McColl

BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) – The government in Colombia and members of the FARC guerrillas will formally announce dates for the end of the conflict and the commencement of a bilateral cease-fire Thursday.

President Juan Manuel Santos addressed the nation in a televised address Monday night and announced that the probable date for a final agreement would be July 20 – the anniversary of Colombia’s independence from Spain.

Both sides have been negotiating since November 2012 in Havana, Cuba.

“I believe that by July 20 we will be able to finalize negotiations in Havana and from there enter into a new stage for the country,” Santos said Monday after a meeting with Unity for Peace, a cross party group working for peace.

Santos is expected to travel to Cuba for the announcement and Cuban President Raul Castro is also expected be present for the landmark declarations.

Details will be made public Thursday but sources speaking to La FM radio in Colombia have confirmed that there will be decisions made on the issues of a bilateral cease-fire and zones of concentration where demobilized FARC guerrillas will be expected to serve out their alternative sentences.

“They have reached an agreement about zones of temporary concentration and a definitive bilateral cease-fire,” FARC spokesperson Pablo Catatumbo said Tuesday via Twitter from Havana. “They have been working dutifully to be able to give Colombians new news of peace this week.”

The exact number and locations of the zones of concentration will be announced Thursday although it is expected that there will be between 20 and 30 sites around the country to facilitate the UN’s verification of the disarmament process.

The sites are designed to provide security for FARC members while they demobilize and disarm.

Both sides agreed that there would be no photographs of the disarming process.

There will also be a creation of strategic corridors in Colombia that will permit FARC guerrillas to travel to the zones of concentration.

The FARC believes it will enable fighters’ transition into politics.