The Colombian government on Thursday reassured the country’s more conservative factions that it would not let the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group use the upcoming peace talks to get rearmed.
Delivering a report of his first year as defense minister, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said the country’s armed forces have weakened the FARC, and anti-rebel operations would continue even as peace talks get underway in Norway and Cuba.
“We guarantee the Colombians that this terrorist group won’ t use the peace process as an opportunity to rearm,” said Pinzon.
Pinzon’ s remarks came one day after FARC leaders said a ceasefire is a precondition to start the peace talks.
In response, the government has rejected the precondition, fearing that the rebels will use a lull in fighting to strengthen their movement.
Pinzon said those who consider negotiating with the FARC as a “sign of weakness” are wrong.
“If we can talk about peace in Colombia, it is because the military forces have weakened the FARC’ s organization,” said Pinzon,
He said the presence of military forces would be essential to any eventual demobilization of the FARC, to prevent a recurrence of what happened with the country’s disbanded paramilitary groups whose members were forced to put down their weapons but later joined organized crime gangs.
“We have to be prepared for victory,” said Pinzon, adding he hoped the
rebels understand how the peace process would unfold. “Otherwise, they will face the government’ s force and determination.” .
The defense ministry totally supports the national goal of reaching a
peaceful solution, he said.
In an interview with a leftist magazine, FARC’s top commander Timoleon Jimenez indicated that previous attempts at peace talks may have succeeded if they had been accompanied by a ceasefire.
Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC are to begin on Oct. 8 in Norwegian capital Oslo and will continue later in Havana, Cuba.