HAVANA – The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas pledged to sever all ties to drug trafficking and contribute to a definitive solution to the problem of illegal narcotics in the Andean nation once a final peace accord is reached with the government.
The FARC’s commitment was announced as part of an “agreement on illicit drugs” reached on Friday in Havana, the third accord that government and rebel negotiators have hammered out since the peace talks began in 2012.
Earlier, partial agreement was reached on land reform and the guerrillas’ participation in politics, while other issues, including the disarmament of the rebels and reparation for victims of the conflict, remain pending.
The FARC pledged to “contribute effectively and with the utmost determination, in different ways and through practical actions, to a definitive solution to the problem of illegal drugs.”
The guerrillas said that once the decades-long conflict is brought to a close they will end any links they maintained to drug trafficking as a “function of the rebellion.”
Colombian officials and their U.S. patrons say the FARC is deeply involved in the drug trade, while the insurgents insist that they merely impose a “tax” on illicit crops in areas under their control.
The government, for its part, pledged in Friday’s agreement to “intensify and decidedly combat corruption within institutions” and lead an effective national process that shatters any links between the scourge of drug trafficking and the “different spheres of public life.”
The government’s chief negotiator, former Vice President Humberto de La Calle, described the agreement to combat illegal drugs as an “important milestone” for the talks.
Negotiators wrapped up the third phase of the peace process nine days before Colombia’s May 25 presidential contest, in which President Juan Manuel Santos is seeking a second term in office.
Santos is in a dogfight for his political life and surveys indicate there will have to be a runoff on June 15.
The FARC and the smaller of Colombia’s two main guerrilla groups, the National Liberation Army (ELN) announced on Friday a May 20-28 unilateral cease-fire for the election.
The latest agreement also came in a week in which a survey showed that right-wing opposition candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a close ally of hardline former President Alvaro Uribe, had taken a very slim lead over Santos in voter preference.
Zuluaga’s Democratic Center party said in a statement late Friday that the drug-fighting deal reached in Havana shows the “FARC’s urgency to promote (Santos’s) re-election” bid.
The peace talks between Santos’ government and the FARC began on Nov. 19, 2012, in Cuba.