Military suspends operations in southwest Colombia

(AFP) – The Colombian army has suspended operations in the country’s southwest, a military source told AFP on Saturday, in a move reports said was meant to allow FARC leader Pablo Catatumbo to exit the country to attend peace talks in Cuba.

photo_1365275332725_1_0-18m0t3i“Yes, military operations have been suspended,” said one high-ranking military official, without providing details, other than to confirm that the interruption in fighting had been ordered by top government officials.

The Colombian government and the rebels are one week into a three-week break in their negotiations, although technical teams for both sides are continuing to hold talks.

Media reports said military operations have been interrupted from late Friday through Sunday afternoon in a large area between the provinces of Valle and Cauca.

Press reports here said the disruption in military activities was ordered to allow rebel leader Catatumbo to join the peace talks in Cuba.

Catatumbo, whose real name is Jorge Torres Victoria, is one of seven members of FARC’s central command.

The government so far has not confirmed reports that hostilities have been suspended and has not said Catatumbo will be taking part in the negotiations.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has been waging armed struggle against the government for nearly a half-century has some 8,000 fighters under arms.

The negotiations held in Havana since November are aimed at ending the longest-running armed conflict in Latin America, which began as a peasant revolt against land inequality.

The talks are the first in more than a decade aiming to achieve a negotiated truce between the Bogota government and the FARC.

FARC is the oldest and most powerful rebel group in South America, but has suffered a string of military setbacks in recent years.

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