Colombia rebels not abiding by ceasefire: minister

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 26 Nov 2012

11/26/2012 15:47 GMT

BOGOTA, Nov 26, 2012 (AFP) - Colombia's defense minister charged Monday that FARC guerrillas were not abiding by a unilateral cease-fire despite a rebel leader's vehement insistence that they were.

The accusations back and forth reflected continuing tensions and mutual suspicions a week into peace talks in Havana aimed at ending Latin America's longest running guerrilla war.

"Historically they have lied to Colombia," Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said in an interview published Monday by El Tiempo, a Bogota newspaper.

He said "some evidence shows they have not" held to the unilateral two-month ceasefire that FARC leaders declared Monday at the start of the negotiations in Havana, the first in a decade.

The Colombian government has rejected a ceasefire as a precondition for the peace talks, saying it had made that mistake once before and would not do so again.

During the last peace process, the government agreed to demilitarize a large swath of the countryside to facilitate the talks, but the rebels used the arrangement as cover to rebuild and expand their presence.

Since then, however, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which are believed to have about 9,200 fighters under arms, have lost key leaders and been weakened militarily by a string of setbacks in recent years.

"Let's hope they negotiate soon and, once and for all, declare a ceasefire for the rest of their lives," Pinzon said. "Until then, the military forces and police will not drop their guard for an instant."

A FARC negotiator, Ruben Zamora, on Sunday accused Pinzon and some generals of "taking pot shots at the (peace) process."

"We express our total adherence to the unilateral halt of offensive actions ordered by the high secretariat of the FARC," he said in a statement.

A FARC unit acknowledged they blew up two electricity towers after the ceasefire announcement, but said it was because they had not yet received the order to stop offensive operations.

Another FARC unit claimed that the Colombian military staged a mock battle on November 20 near a town in the southern province of Cauca, and then passed it off as a FARC attack.

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