FARC ready to lay down arms if government does, members say

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will hold peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia next month.

Story highlights

  • An immediate cease fire will be on the agenda in talks next month, FARC members say
  • But one warns, "There's enough of us to keep taking the fight to the government."
  • The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have waged a civil war for five decades
  • "We no longer have any captives," FARC commander Mauricio Jaramillo says

Members of Latin America's largest guerrilla group declared Thursday they will ask for an immediate cease fire when they meet with Colombian government negotiators for peace talks next month.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- known by the Spanish acronym FARC -- have waged a bloody civil war for five decades with the Colombian government and right-wing paramilitary groups. The group is considered by the United States government to be a terrorist organization.

The discussions will begin on October 8 in Oslo, Norway, six FARC members said during a news conference held in Havana on Thursday.

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Chile, Cuba, Venezuela and Norway have been named as countries that will aid in the negotiations.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday he supports the effort and named government negotiators to attempt to hammer out a treaty.

A possible peace deal will face many obstacles, including long-standing allegations that FARC guerrillas have enriched themselves with ransoms paid for kidnap victims and with drug trafficking.

FARC commander Mauricio Jaramillo denied reports that guerrillas still hold prisoners in remote jungle camps.

"We no longer have any captives," Jaramillo said before asserting that kidnappings by criminal and paramilitary organizations are often blamed on the FARC.

Negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government broke down over 10 years ago. Then-President Andres Pastrana had ceded an area the size of Switzerland to the guerrilla group at the start of those peace talks. The government later said the guerrillas had used the area as a base for drug trafficking and kidnapping.

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says it is impossible to hold peace talks without first securing a unilateral cease fire and criticized the proposed negotiations.

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Jaramillo said a cease fire would be proposed as soon as negotiators meet next month, but the FARC is prepared to continue fighting.

"There's enough of us to keep taking the fight to the government," he said.

As part of a road map for a possible peace deal, the FARC has said the government will need to enact land reform for peasant farmers, help coca growers plant other crops and reintegrate thousands of FARC soldiers into Colombian society.

FARC representatives also decried Colombia's extradition treaty with the United States, which has led to the convictions of several FARC commanders there.

"Anyone who breaks the law in Colombia should be tried in Colombia," said FARC negotiator Ricardo Tellez. "There's no need that anyone should be turned over to another country."

The issue could prove to be the first challenge to the talks, since the FARC named commander Simon Trinidad as a member of the team who will negotiate a possible peace deal.

Trinidad is serving 60 years in a U.S. federal prison after a 2007 conviction on drug trafficking and terrorism charges.

FARC negotiators refused to say at the news conference whether Trinidad's inclusion is symbolic or if his release is an initial demand to the Colombian government.

"We have Simon Trinidad at the negotiating table," FARC negotiator Andres París said Thursday.

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