After four years of negotiations the Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels have signed a historic peace agreement ending a 50-year-old insurgency.
A ceremony in Havana saw the two sides shake on the deal applauded by Cuba’s foreign minister whose government with Norway have facilitated the talks.
Under its terms the FARC will give up its armed struggle
and join the legal political process.
In a special televised address Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said deal will take the country forward:
“To have a long lasting peace we have to guarantee that those raised as armed insurgents can reintegrate into the social and legal life of our country. Former FARC members, now disarmed, will be able to have access to the political life of our country, in a democratic way. As with any other political organisation, they will have to use proposals and arguments to persuade voters to elect them.”
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was born, like many other Marxist-inspired peasant insurgencies across Latin America in the 1960s, out of frustration with deep socio-economic inequalities.
It grew to a 17,000 strong force operating across vast swaths of Colombia and while other Latin American insurgencies were crushed by right-wing governments or convinced to join conventional politics by the 1990s, the FARC continued to operate.
Its cocaine-funded war has killed at least 220,000 people and displaced millions because of the violence.
It also took resource-rich Colombia to the brink of collapse.
An agreement with the FARC does not guarantee an end to violence. Talks between the smaller, leftist National Liberation Army and the government recently stalled. Gangs born out of right-wing paramilitary groups are reported to have taken over some of the FARC’s drug trafficking routes.
But an agreement is a prerequisite for peace. A ceasefire has already sent violence to its lowest level in decades.
The deal signed in Cuba is opposed by two former Colombian presidents and still needs to be voted on in a referendum before becoming law.