Colombian gov’t, FARC rebels sign historic ceasefire agreement

The Colombian government and FARC guerrilla group on June 23 signed a historic ceasefire agreement, bringing the country’s half-century civil war closer to an end.

(Soundbite, Spanish) Juan Manuel Santos, Colombian President
“Today a new chapter, a chapter that gives us hope, which allows us to begin to heal the wounds and gives our children the possibility of not repeating history that has caused so much damage to the country opens. We came time to live without war. We came time to be a peaceful country, a country with hope.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and top FARC commander Timoleon Jimenez presided over the signing ceremony in Havana, Cuba, which was attended by world dignitaries, including Latin American heads of state and the secretary-general of the United Nations.

(Soundbite, Spanish) Timoleon Jimenez, FARC Commander
“Today, 52 years later, the FARC are sealing with the government of Juan Manuel Santos a definitive ceasefire. This an agreement on security guarantees, to combat para-militarism and on arms vexation. This leave us at the gates of concrete steps in a relatively short time the final agreement will allow us to finally return to the legal political exercise through peaceful and democratic means.”

The agreement sets up mechanisms for the FARC to disarm and transform to a political party or movement, although the disarmament process will not begin until a definitive peace treaty is signed.

(Soundbite) Raul Castro, Cuban President
“The decision of the parties to sign a ceasefire commitment to definitively end bilateral hostility, and for surrender of the weapons and security guarantees today represents a breakthrough. The peace process is irreversible.”

The agreement follows nearly four years of peace negotiations in Havana, which hosted the talks, and encouraged the Colombian government and rebels to set aside fighting and adopt peaceful, democratic means of resolving their disputes.

The Colombian conflict started as a rural uprising in the 1960s.
The war by the FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million displaced, according to official figures.

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