HAVANA: Colombia’s government and the FARC rebel group yesterday called on the public to support a peace process that is under challenge in the country’s closely contested presidential elections.
The government’s chief negotiator and his rebel counterpart made the appeals at the start of a brief round of talks here overshadowed by the race between President Juan Manuel Santos and Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a vehement opponent of the Havana talks.
Santos, who has staked his presidency on the bid to end Latin America’s oldest guerrilla war, is running neck and neck with Zuluaga, who came in first in a first round upset on May 25. The run-off is on June 15.
Humberto de la Calle, a former vice president who leads the government peace delegation, addressed his remarks to Colombian soldiers and police, urging them to pay no heed to what he insisted was an opposition disinformation campaign.
“I ask you not to allow yourself to be confused amid so many lies, so many fallacies,” he said.
“Neither your salary, nor your future, even less your doctrine has been or will be negotiated here,” he said.
Ivan Marquez, the top FARC negotiator, had a similar message.
“All Colombians must defend the peace process,” he said. “The time has come to end this conflict.”
The talks to end the FARC’s 50 year-old insurgency have been under way since November 2012.
Santos has said he hopes to accelerate the process, but with less than two weeks to go its future will depend on the outcome of the elections.
Zuluaga has said there can only be a peace if the FARC declares a permanent ceasefire and its leaders go to jail. AFP