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Colombia’s FARC Rebel Leader Sees Solution to Peace Impasse Soon

The leader of Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebel group Rodrigo Londono expressed confidence on Wednesday that a solution can be found to resuscitate a peace accord to end five decades of war after voters rejected the hard-negotiated deal in a referendum.

Londono, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, said he had met on numerous occasions with government negotiators in Havana to find a way out of the impasse caused by the shock vote on October 2 against the peace accord.

“We must join forces and together apply healing balm to the wounds…. We will have good news soon,” Londono, 57, told Caracol Radio by telephone from Cuba.

President Juan Manuel Santos is hearing proposals from representatives of those who voted against the accord, which was rejected by a razor-thin margin of less than half a percentage point, just 54,000 votes.

Led by hardline opposition senator and former president Alvaro Uribe, the “No” side wants leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to lose their freedom for at least five years and be banned from elected office.

They were outraged that the accord offered ten congressional seats instead of prison cells in return for ending a conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people.

Uribe opposed FARC leaders receiving non-traditional sentences like clearing landmines, and instead insisted that those found guilty of war crimes should be confined for between five and eight years, even if they are held on farms.

There have been atrocities committed by all sides in the war - the FARC, the military and right-wing paramilitaries.

Although the FARC has said it is willing to hear new ideas, Uribe’s proposals may be difficult for its leadership to accept, given they have repeatedly refused to consider jail time and want to form a political party.

Londono said he respects the views of the “No” camp, and even Uribe, whose two terms in office were spent in a fierce offensive against the FARC.

“He represents a large number of Colombians with different political ideas, his discourse was always to defeat us but he was unable to do it in eight years. I respect him as a person.”

Londono reiterated the FARC’s opposition to renegotiating  the justice element of the accord. “It would be crazy,” to negotiate that point over again after 18 months of talks about the issue already, he said.

The deal contemplates some loss of freedom for war crimes, but those atrocities would need to be proved, he said.


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