HAVANA – The top leader of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, alias “Timochenko,” on Sunday afternoon confirmed the definitive cease-fire between the rebels and the Bogota government that will take effect Monday at midnight, and expressed the “clear and definite vocation for reconciliation” on the part of the guerrillas after the peace treaty agreed to by both parties last week.
Timochenko announced the end of offensive military action by the FARC in a statement to the media at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, where peace talks have been under way with the Colombian government for the past four years.
“In my capacity as commander of the Central Command of the FARC-EP, I order all our officers, all our units, each and every one of our combatants to definitively cease fire and hostilities against the Colombian state starting at midnight,” the rebel chief said, reading from a written statement.
He said that the guerrillas have been adhering to a self-declared cease-fire for more than a year, and welcomed the order of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Aug. 25 for the Colombian security forces to implement a definitive cease-fire with the FARC as of Monday at midnight.
“We never lost hope of arriving at this very fortunate day for our fatherland and our people,” said Timochenko, adding that “the rivalries and rancor must remain in the past. Today, more than ever, we regret so much death and pain brought about by the war. ... We want to embrace (the Colombian forces) as compatriots and begin working together for a new Colombia.”
During his statement, after which he took no questions, the rebel leader was flanked by members of the FARC negotiating team who have participated in the peace talks in Havana.
The FARC, Timochenko said, will “rigorously” adhere to the agreed-upon commitments at the peace talks, including transforming itself into a legal political movement, reincorporating itself and its members into civil society and providing justice and reparations for the war’s victims.
The peace treaty announced on Aug. 24 amounts to almost 300 pages and will be submitted to popular approval in a plebiscite to be held on Oct. 2.
Earlier on Sunday, President Santos said that his country is so accustomed to war that people have forgotten what it’s like to live in peace, delivering his remarks just hours before the definitive cease-fire with the FARC guerrillas takes effect.
“We’re so accustomed to war that we’ve forgotten what peace feels like, what it feels like to be a normal country,” said the president in Bogota during the inauguration of the 38th Solidarity for Colombia March, a program that for almost the past four decades has been devoted to the public welfare.
Santos added that because of the war, Colombians have lost their compassion and their ability to feel the sadness of others “and that is what we have to recover.”
“More than half a century of war has left us anesthetized, accustomed each day to having countrymen, soldiers, peasants, guerrillas die because of this absurd confrontation. The war became part of the landscape and we’ve forgotten the tremendous human dramas that gave rise to that sadness, that backwardness that created this conflict,” he said.
“Tomorrow the bilateral and definitive cease-fire and cessation of hostilities begins,” said Santos, issuing a call to his countrymen to maintain their solidarity during this new phase into which the country is moving.
“Let us maintain solidarity with the peasants who deserve to be able to sow, harvest and work in peace; ... with the displaced, who deserve to be able to return to their lands with safety and dignity; ... with the soldiers, with the mothers and fathers of those boys who have no reason to keep dying in that senseless war,” he said.
The president also called for solidarity “with the victims who deserve truth, justice, who deserve reparations and, of course, not to have the atrocities they suffered repeated.”