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Colombian government and rebels exchange peace proposals
From CNN Interactive Correspondent Steve Nettleton
BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Hoping to energize a peace process that has advanced little in the last 18 months, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC, exchanged sealed envelopes on Monday outlining their strategies on how to bring an end to decades of war
It marked the first time in more than 15 years that the two sides formally broached the issue of a cease-fire.
Neither the government nor the FARC discussed the details of their proposals. But in an interview with CNN, the FARC's chief spokesman hinted at the guerrillas' demands, saying any final peace accord must bring more than just an end to hostilities.
Agrarian reform demanded
"We need to solve structural problems, such as agrarian reform and the structural problems of housing, employment, health, education and roads, " said FARC spokesman Raul Reyes.
The FARC, the largest and oldest surviving guerrilla force in Latin America, controls as much as 40 percent of Colombia -- mostly rural and mountainous areas in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
Funded by taxing planters of coca -- the tea-like shrub used to produce cocaine -- and by a campaign of kidnappings, the FARC has developed into a well-armed and well-paid army.
The government says the kidnappings must end, along with attacks on civilians, as part of a truce. But FARC commanders have demanded government compensation before they consider an end to the practice, which they call "retention."
The last cease-fire between the FARC and the government, begun during the administration of President Belisario Betancur in 1984, ended in disaster. More than 2,000 members of the FARC's former political party, the Patriotic Union, were assassinated.
Washington providing $1.3 billion in aid
The timing of these talks coincides with the approval of a $1.3 billion aid package from the United States that will supply helicopters and training for the Colombian military to crack down on drug production.
Since much the territory to be targeted by this plan is under FARC control, the guerrillas view the U.S. aid as a threat to the peace process.
"It doesn't make any sense to the FARC that a government that is working for peace, at the same time is threatening more investment for war," Reyes said.
Both sides plan to spend a month considering each other's proposals before sitting down again to talk specifics. But with so much at stake in the talks, few Colombians believe a cease-fire will be declared anytime soon.
Colombian farmers plead for help from Europe, Americas, in war on drugs
Presidencia de la Republica (Spanish/English)
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