BOGOTA, Oct. 13 (UPI) — Colombia’s FARC rebel group on Thursday said the armed, 52-year conflict against the government has ended after thousands of Colombians protested, demanding a recent peace deal be upheld.
“Our commitment is to work for a new Colombia — to find peace,” the FARC said in a statement on Thursday. “The armed conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC has come to an end. There will be no confrontation.”
Colombians protested nationwide on Wednesday demanding a recent peace deal with the FARC be upheld after it was rejected through a referendum, while the leader of the rebel group suggested renegotiating some aspects of the deal would be difficult.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has been working with FARC negotiators and key opponents in the leadership of the “No” to the FARC peace deal campaign, which is led by former President Alvaro Uribe, to salvage the agreement that took four years to reach.
In Bogota, the families of victims in the 52-year Colombian conflict were given white flowers to symbolize peace and thousands of students, farmers and indigenous leaders met in front of Congress.
FARC leader Timoleon “Timochenko” Rodriguez on Wednesday said he was confident the deal would be salvaged, though he warned the FARC would be reluctant to renegotiate some elements of the agreement — particularly over the transition of rebels into civilian life.
“This is a conflict that has gone on for many years and opened deep wounds,” Rodriguez told Caracol Radio. “We must join forces and together apply healing balm to the wounds. We will have good news soon.”
More than 220,000 people have died and 5 million have been internally displaced due to the Colombian conflict since the FARC’s founding in 1964 as a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group. The FARC, known officially as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has been involved in drug-trafficking, kidnapping and other illicit activity to fund its insurgency.
FARC leaders have vowed to maintain a cease-fire with the Colombian government even after the peace deal was rejected in a 50.2 percent vote.
Those who voted “No” to the peace deal said they thought the terms were too lenient in favor of the FARC. “No” voters wanted FARC rebels found guilty of crimes to be banned from running for public office, wanted FARC leaders to serve time in prison for crimes committed and wanted FARC to use its illegally acquired funds to pay for compensation to victims.