BOGOTA – Colombia’s defense minister said on Friday the government was waiting for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas to formally declare the start of a bilateral and definitive cease-fire, which is scheduled to go into effect on Monday.
“We’re waiting for the statement of the FARC chief in that regard declaring a cease-fire and end to hostilities starting at zero hours on Monday,” Luis Carlos Villegas said at a press conference in the company of Colombia’s top military and police brass.
Villegas said the cease-fire would mark the end of the five-decade-old armed conflict with the FARC because it is “bilateral and definitive.”
He added that that truce entails the “suspension of offensive actions by the security forces and the suspension of offensive actions by the FARC, but also the suspension of all criminal activity by the FARC.”
The defense minister noted that the bilateral cease-fire would bring an end to actions related to the armed conflict but did not mean crime-fighting efforts would cease.
“In other words, security forces still have a constitutional duty to fight crime no matter the perpetrator,” even if that individual is covered under the cease-fire agreement as a FARC member.
In that regard, Villegas said authorities would continue to combat extortion, kidnapping, drug trafficking, illegal mining, people-trafficking and contraband smuggling.
President Juan Manuel Santos this week ordered a definitive bilateral cease-fire with the FARC starting Monday.
The guerrillas declared unilateral cease-fires at different times during the three and half years of formal peace talks, which concluded this week in Havana with the completion of a final deal.
The government responded to those gestures by suspending airstrikes on guerrilla camps.
The rebels most recently have maintained a cease-fire from July 20, 2015, to the present, a period of time in which the level of fighting between government forces and the FARC has plunged to levels not seen since the war began.
Separately, Villegas said that around 16,500 soldiers and police would oversee the movement of FARC members along designated routes to so-called Temporary Hamlet Zones for Normalization, or ZVTNs, while 1,500 members of the security forces will participate in a tripartite monitoring and verification mechanism that will also include a UN mission and members of the FARC.
That mechanism will ensure that the parties are following the rules of the cease-fire, while the UN mission will receive all of the FARC’s armaments.
The peace deal that was finalized this week still must be put to a vote in a popular referendum on Oct. 2.