BOGOTA – The Colombian president has announced his decision to extend the bilateral ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) until Dec. 31, an agreement that has been in force since last Aug. 29.
“I have made the decision to extend the bilateral ceasefire until Dec. 31,” Juan Manuel Santos said in a speech broadcast on national television.
Santos noted that the decision announced on Thursday comes at the request of a group of students he met with at the Presidential Palace.
According to Santos, one of the students had reminded him that both within the ranks of the army and the FARC guerrilla forces, “There are young people waiting to see what happens and hoping not to have to shoot again.”
“Let’s be clear: this is not an ultimatum or a deadline, but I hope that this whole process will reach a new agreement much earlier, because as a student said to me... ‘time conspires against peace and life,’” the head of state said.
The ceasefire between the government and FARC was put in place on Aug. 29, with the Ministry of Defense issuing a resolution regulating the measure until Oct. 2, when a plebiscite rejected the bilateral peace pact, leaving agreements up in the air.
Though the agreement was only rejected by a narrow percentage of the votes, Santos had initially decided to extend the ceasefire until the end of October to avoid any armed incidents between the parties.
The extension was interpreted in some quarters as a warning that hostilities would eventually resume, claims the Ministry of Defense refuted.
In his speech Thursday night, President Santos also noted that he had met with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Secretary-General Angel Gurria, who reminded him that while peace is not a requirement to join the OECD, it would “speed up investment, employment generation and agricultural development.”
“We will achieve it. We will achieve a definitive end to the violence, the return of displaced persons to their homes, the chance... for progress, development, and employment for all Colombians. We cannot lose this opportunity,” Santos urged.