FARC satisfied with first round of peace talks; Santos and Colombian public opinion cautious
Colombia's FARC rebels said their peace talks with the government were going well, but the lead negotiator for President Juan Manuel Santos was more reserved as the two sides finished the first round of meetings aimed at ending their protracted conflict.
In separate sessions with the press, neither side spoke of breakthroughs in the talks, but nor was there any sign they had hit irresolvable obstacles as happened in previous peace attempts. They will reconvene in Havana on Wednesday next week.
The country's bloody guerrilla war, in which tens of thousands of people have died, dates back to 1964 when the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, formed as a communist agrarian movement. It turned later to the illicit drug trade, kidnappings and extortion to sustain itself.
Millions of people have been displaced by the war, which the FARC says is a fight to end Colombia's long history of social inequality.
Dutch national Tanja Nijmeijer, a FARC negotiator, told reporters the talks are going very well, with occasional moments of levity. The atmosphere during the talks is very good. There's even space for little jokes, for laughing, she said in response to a question.
Senior FARC leader Andres Paris said the negotiators mingled in the hallways during breaks and were getting to know each other.
One doesn't know who is more surprised, them or us, said the guerrilla. When we sit at the table, they can observe not barbarians, not savages, but fighters, intellectuals, politicians, the sensible men and women.
Lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle, who read a statement and took no questions, gave a more muted assessment, but indicated progress.
Meantime back in Bogotá President Juan Manuel Santos is having a rough time since a majority of Colombians do not approve of negotiations with FARC, given frustrated attempts in the past in which the rebels took advantage to rearm and reorganize.
Furthermore the Santos administration was not satisfied with the International Court of Justice rulings on a cluster of Caribbean islands and maritime spaces. Colombia has announced it will be dropping out from the Court of Justice in The Hague.