International

In Colombia, FARC Rebels Declare Unilateral Cease-Fire

The leftist rebels in Colombia have announced a unilateral cease-fire that covers the the period before the June 15 presidential elections.

Correspondent John Otis tells our Newscast unit that the cease-fire comes amid intense peace negotiations between the rebels and the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba.

John sent this report:

"The guerrillas, known as the FARC, said the cease-fire will last for three weeks, including the period immediately before and after the voting.

"President Juan Manuel Santos says that if re-elected, he will sign a peace treaty with the FARC by the end of this year.

"Opposition candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga has been critical of the talks. The guerrillas fund their war, in part, through cocaine trafficking and Zuluaga calls the FARC a drug cartel.

"Polls show that the race is too close to call."

Reuters reports the FARC declared the cease-fire in an open letter in which it accused Zuluaga of "making inflammatory statements and trying to foment more war."

"The FARC are keen to avoid Zuluaga's election, analysts say, because conditions he would impose to continue peace talks could lead to their breakdown and a return to all-out war," Reuters adds.

Meanwhile, the talks in Cuba have resulted in the formation a truth commission that will investigate the victims of the five-decade long conflict.

The BBC reports:

"The 'victims of human rights abuses' have the right to the truth, justice, compensation and the guarantee that such violations will never happen again, says the [agreement].

"Victims of the conflict and their relatives will go to Havana, apparently in the near future, to share their experiences.

"The acknowledgment by the guerrillas that there were victims in the conflict has been seen in Colombia as a historic statement, says the BBC's Arturo Wallace in Bogota. The left-wing rebels and the government have so far rejected allegations of human rights abuses and blamed each other for the deaths and the displacement of at least 3 million people.

" 'Today is a special day. The day of the victims has arrived. We have made a huge step. The Havana process is not simply a closed door conversation about clashes,' said government negotiator Humberto de la Calle."

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