Colombia peace talks eye political participation

HAVANA (AP) — Colombia’s government and its largest rebel army have begun building agreements on the guerrillas’ eventual political integration if peace talks succeed, negotiators said Saturday as they entered another recess between rounds of discussions.

In a joint statement, the two camps said they are working on accords covering “rights and guarantees for the exercise of the political opposition.”

Representatives of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have been holding peace talks in Havana since last year.

“The FARC, if they make a transition to a legal political movement as we hope, require special guarantees just as has occurred in all processes of dialogue around the world,” said Humberto de la Calle, chief negotiator for the government.

For their part, the rebels insisted on the need to convene a constitutional assembly and reform the judicial and electoral systems.

“There is no other way out,” said Ivan Marquez, the lead guerrilla negotiator, whose legal name is Luciano Arango.

Marquez also called “unfortunate” a recent comment by Santos saying that if top rebel leader Timoleon Jimenez, the nom de guerre of Rodrigo Londono Echeverry, were to be located, Santos would order security forces to take him out.

“That kind of demonstration from the president does very little to help create a reasonable atmosphere for the development and advance of building the peace accord,” he said.

Nevertheless de la Calle expressed optimism about the progress of talks, saying “we have never come so far” and “step by step we are giving peace a chance.”

Discussions are still centered on the second item on their six-point agenda. Earlier this year a preliminary agreement on agrarian reform was struck.

Negotiators are to return to the negotiating table Aug. 19.

The FARC was formed in the 1960s and is the oldest active guerrilla army in the Americas.