BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Friday that a deadline must be established for a successful conclusion to his government’s peace process with the FARC guerrilla group, which began more than two years ago.
“The time has come to end the war. Our patience is exhausted, it is necessary to set limits to this process,” he said during a reception for visiting South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.
The negotiations have been placed under additional pressure following the uproar in Colombia over a FARC attack that left 11 soldiers dead and 24 others wounded.
Ten enlisted men and a non-commissioned officer died in a FARC attack early Wednesday on an army detachment that was resting at a sports facility in a rural area of the southwestern province of Cauca.
The assault was “deliberate” and clearly violated the unilateral cease-fire the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, declared on Dec. 20, the government said.
On March 10, Santos ordered a halt to the bombardment of FARC encampments for one month, a moratorium he extended last week for another month in a move aimed at dialing down the intensity of Colombia’s decades-old internal conflict.
But following the attack in Cauca, the president ordered a renewal of airstrikes on rebel camps.
“No more FARC, no more violence!” Santos said Friday. “All Colombians are filled with sadness and rage. A lot of rage.”
“My obligation is to convert that rage into actions that end the war,” he said, before addressing a message to FARC fighters.
“Hear the national outcry,” the president said. “Don’t turn a deaf ear to what we are shouting: the time has come to end the war!”
The FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, blamed the 11 soldiers’ deaths on the government’s inconsistent policy.
The government “is ordering military operations against a guerrilla group that is under a truce,” FARC representative Pastor Alape said in a statement released in Havana, venue for the peace talks.
“The nation urgently needs a bilateral cease-fire and the country is awaiting news of this,” Alape said.