The peace process between the Colombian government and the country’s largest rebel group won more support Wednesday as the names of those who will be sitting around the table began to emerge.
President Juan Manuel Santos presented the government’s negotiating team and it is expected that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, will make its team known on Thursday in Havana.
Former Vice President Humberto de la Calle will head the team comprised of retired Gens. Jorge Enrique Mora and Oscar Naranjo, erstwhile commanders of the army and police, respectively; business leader Luis Carlos Villegas, security advisor Sergio Jaramillo and former presidential peace commissioner Frank Pearl.
The government negotiators “have very broad experience” and are committed to ensuring that the peace process “moves forward, in a serious way, in a dignified way, in a realistic way and in an effective way,” Santos said.
The dialogue, which includes five general issues ranging from the FARC laying down its arms to drug trafficking, will begin in the first half of October in Oslo and will then continue in Havana, and it is expected that it will conclude in “months,” according to Santos, who said on Tuesday that if there are no advances within a reasonable time, he will suspend it.
A ceasefire is not contemplated during the negotiations and even Santos has said that the military will continue fighting the guerrillas like it is doing now.
The guarantors for the process will be – just like in the previous phase – the governments of Cuba and Norway, joined for the formal talks by Venezuela and Chile.
Meanwhile, the avalanche of messages of support from all over the world for the steps taken by the Colombian government and the FARC continue to pour in.
On Wednesday, the French government issued a statement applauding the “determination” showed by Santos and his government to implement peace in Colombia and it invited all involved parties to make an active commitment to the process.
The Argentine government expressed “its complete willingness to collaborate in the success of the dialogue.”
The Committee of the Socialist International for Latin America and the Caribbean, led by former Panamanian President Martin Torrijos, urged “the democratic organizations of Colombia to persist in the effort, and all progressive forces in the region to encourage its continuity.”
Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto expressed his support for “this historic step to achieve peace” and he hailed the “political leadership” of Santos.
From Salamanca, Spain, former Colombian President Ernesto Samper predicted on Wednesday a “rapid and effective” resolution of the armed conflict in his country after the dialogue gets under way.
Santos’ decision to talk peace with the FARC is supported by 60 percent of Colombians, according to a Gallup poll released Sunday, while the smaller ELN insurgency has expressed an interest in joining the process.
The FARC has battled a succession of Colombian governments since 1964. The insurgency swelled to nearly 20,000 fighters in the early 2000s but now numbers around 8,500 combatants.
Colombia’s armed forces, bolstered by billions of dollars of aid from the United States, have scored dramatic successes against the FARC in recent years, but the rebels remain capable of inflicting significant damage on the military and on vulnerable infrastructure. EFE\