Colombia - FARC peace talks: 4 things you need to know

Colombia has ample experience holding peace talks – though over the past 50 years, it’s seen little peace. But in early September, President Juan Manuel Santos announced peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Here are four things you need to know about the landmark peace process.

What will the peace talks involve?

In a nationally televised address, Mr. Santos revealed the five-point negotiating agenda the two sides agreed to in preliminary talks. Those talks have been ongoing since the start of the year and concluded Aug. 26 with an agreement to begin formal talks. Cuba and Norway are acting as “guarantors,” or facilitators, and Venezuela and Chile will act as witnesses. 

"Any responsible leader knows he can't ... pass up a possibility like this to end the conflict," Santos said in a speech from the presidential palace, where he was flanked by his full cabinet and the military top brass.

The main points of discussion in the peace process – which will begin in Oslo Oct. 8 and continue in Havana – include rural development, the recognition of victims, political participation, and the sticky issue of drug trafficking, the FARC’s main source of revenue.

Also on the agenda for the first time: putting an end to the conflict.

“Never before had the FARC allowed the issue of them laying down their weapons to be placed on the agenda of peace talks,” says political analyst Leon Valencia, director of the Nuevo Arco Iris think tank and a former member of the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group.

The Colombian government announced members of its delegation for the talks, led by former Vice President Humberto de la Calle. The five-person team is made up of former heads of the armed forces and police, the peace commissioner, and a business leader. The FARC is in the process of announcing its representatives, but has already named two members: Ivan Marquez, who has negotiated in past peace talks and is a member of the guerrilla group’s six-person ruling secretariat; and Jose Santrich, a lower level FARC leader.

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