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Colombian president inaugurates the “Congress of peace” to end 50 years of war

Monday, July 21st 2014 - 07:25 UTC
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“We have a great challenge - an achievable challenge - to end an armed conflict which has bled us for half a century, and build peace” said Santos “We have a great challenge - an achievable challenge - to end an armed conflict which has bled us for half a century, and build peace” said Santos

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos opened a new session of Congress on Sunday, calling on lawmakers to back government efforts to strike a peace deal with the FARC rebels to end 50 years of war. Members of Congress were sworn in during the ceremony in central Bogota.

“This will be - there's no doubt - the Congress of peace,” said Santos, who will be inaugurated for a second four-year term on Aug. 7.

“We have a great challenge - an achievable challenge - to end an armed conflict which has bled us for half a century, and build peace.”

Santos won re-election last month with support for his bid to bring an end to five decades of war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions.

Santos will face fierce opposition in Congress, not least from ex-President Alvaro Uribe, a newly minted senator and leader of the right-wing Democratic Center party. His backers won 20% of the Senate seats and just under 10% of the lower house in March elections.

Uribe is a staunch opponent of the peace talks, which he says will lead to impunity for FARC leaders and are a betrayal of the war's victims.

Talks have so far produced partial agreements on three topics - land reform, political participation and drug trafficking. Negotiators in Havana are now discussing reparations and justice for victims of the conflict.

The FARC and the smaller rebel group the National Liberation Army, or ELN, who are in preliminary talks with the government, released a joint statement urging lawmakers to support peace.

“Reconciliation is knocking at Colombia's door,” the rebel statement said. “It's time to pass from rhetoric and dead words to a period of transition, when Congress will legislate in favor of the uniting of Colombian society.”

The government will also seek congressional backing for reforms to taxation, pensions, healthcare and the justice system.

Santos's governing coalition holds majorities in the lower house and Senate.

Colombia has one of the strongest economies in the region, with clear pro-business and foreign investment rules that have attracted billions of dollars to develop natural resources. This has been accompanied by positive macro-economic indicators, including a balanced budget, but poverty and lack of quality jobs remains a major challenge.

Despite decades of guerrilla warfare, the country is also one of the most reliable partners of the US and the EU in the region.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

Top Comments

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  • Bisley

    Santos may mean well, but this won't end well, if he succeeds and gives these revolutionaries a piece of the government. FARC isn't interested in power-sharing (but they'll take anything they can get to advance themselves); they want control of the country, but they will take it in increments. If they are offered any power, they will use it as a base to seize more. There can never be peaceful co-existence with these people; they will continue until they win, or are destroyed.

    Jul 21st, 2014 - 06:12 pm 0
  • Anglotino

    For 50 years they weren't destroyed by fighting them.

    Santos has changed tact and so far is winning the peace. He was elected on this platform and defeated someone who said that fighting was the way to win.

    So let's see what happens. So far it is working.

    Jul 21st, 2014 - 10:19 pm 0
  • ilsen

    I am hoping for the best with this. After 50 years of a war that has solved nothing, the people, all the people, deserve peace. It maybe difficult but I hope they achieve it.
    South Africa and Northern Ireland still have many problems but the sheer level of death and destruction has almost disappeared, compared to 20 years ago. That alone is some form of 'victory'.

    50 years and no winner? time for a different approach. I hope this works out well.

    Jul 23rd, 2014 - 06:18 pm 0
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