CALI, Colombia – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos described as historic this Tuesday when the nation could witness the FARC guerrilla group turning over a large part of its arms to the United Nations mission.
“Today is without doubt a historic day. What we are witnessing on television is something that years ago the country would not have thought possible, but it was possible thanks to the determination of so many people on both sides who helped get us through this difficult process,” Santos said at an event in the southwestern city of Cali.
Bad weather kept the president and his retinue from reaching the La Elvira area in the neighboring province of Cauca, where they could have witnessed first-hand the surrender of 30 percent of the FARC’s weapons. Instead they were forced to land at Cali and watch the ceremony on television.
In Cali, Santos was accompanied by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, who headed the international verification mechanism for implementing the peace accord.
“We are taking a very important step. The FARC is laying down its arms,” Santos said.
Last Thursday, the FARC announced it had handed over its first lot of weapons to the UN, equivalent to 30 percent of its stockpile, and this Tuesday was handing over another 30 percent.
The process will be concluded next June 20 with the remaining 40 percent.
Tuesday’s delivery, the president said, “is part of the commitment that both sides have made” and “helps strengthen the magic word, which is ‘trust.’”
This peace accord, he added, “has been well thought out, designed to end the conflict and keep it from every being repeated.”
The head of state told the FARC that the government is doing “everything to comply” with the peace accord signed last November, but admitted to some “stumbles,” which, he said, was “normal.”
“This peace is being built little by little, one brick after another, so that it stands strong,” he said.
Santos thanked Gonzalez and Mujica for their presence and for being “people with the transparency to tell the world what is happening here and to raise the spirits of the Colombian with your words.”
At the end of his speech, the president said that “this is the best news for Colombia” because “it ends a 53-year war that caused so much pain. There’s no better news for a country at war than to hear that peace has come.”
He therefore invited the FARC to continue “acting positively, which will make distrust disappear” from the peace process.