Colombia’s rebel group declares ceasefire during presidential runoff

Posted on Jun 9 2014 - 12:02am by Rico

Colombia’s largest rebel group declared a unilateral ceasefire Saturday ahead of a June 15 presidential runoff pitting incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos and his conservative rival Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.

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“We want to tell the country our decision to re-declare a unilateral ceasefire during the second round of the presidential election,” the 8,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said in an open letter posted on its website.

“Our units are aware of the ceasefire with state armed forces or economic infrastructure from June 9 to June 30,” said the letter signed by FARC leader Timoleon Gimenez.

Santos lost to Zuluaga in the first-round vote on May 25, during which the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s second largest rebel group, also declared a week-long ceasefire.

Zuluaga, a protege of former president Alvaro Uribe who has steadfastly opposed negotiating with the rebels in favor of a hardline military strategy, fell short of the 50 percent vote needed to avoid a runoff.

The peace talks, launched by Santos with the FARC in November 2012 to end the country’s prolonged violence, have so far reached agreement on agrarian reform and political participation.

The five-decade-long armed conflict has killed 220,000 people and displaced 4.5 million others.