BOGOTA – The government of Colombia has twice authorized visits to Havana by the leader of the FARC guerrilla since the November 2012 start of peace talks between Bogota and the rebels in the Cuban capital, the Interior Ministry said Friday.
Hours later, President Juan Manuel Santos said that he personally signed off on the trips, which he described as “part of the process, normal.”
The decision to allow Rodrigo Londońo, aka “Timochenko,” to travel to Havana did not signify that the government “dropped its guard a single millimeter” against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Santos said during a business gathering in Cartagena.
Timochenko has not participated directly in the peace talks, the Interior Ministry said.
The trips, according to the ministry, served only for “internal discussions” on the FARC side and Timochenko had no contact with Colombian officials.
Negotiations with the FARC “progress within the frame of the Constitution and laws and continue with the confidentiality agreed at the beginning,” the statement said.
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon first revealed Timochenko’s trips to Cuba during an interview Thursday with Caracol Radio.
When asked whether Colombian intelligence agencies were aware of the rebel leader’s travel to Cuba, Pinzon confirmed those reports.