The Colombian government has reached an agreement with Marxist guerrillas to cooperate in the fight against illegal drugs, according to a government official with knowledge of peace talks being held in Cuba, who asked not to be named because the agreement isn’t public yet.
The agenda item includes programs to substitute illegal crops, public health initiatives to prevent drug use and measures to curb the production and sale of narcotics, according to the six-point program for the talks. Colombia is the biggest supplier of cocaine to the U.S.
The government of President Juan Manuel Santos has been holding peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, since 2012, seeking a negotiated end to an insurgency that began five decades ago. The agreement may bolster support for Santos ahead of the May 25 presidential election by increasing optimism for the talks, said Adam Isacson, a Colombia specialist at the Washington Office on Latin America.
“It sure doesn’t hurt,” Isacson said in a phone interview today. “There’s been some frustration with the slow pace, and now a lot of that goes away. You have that impression of momentum at the talks that makes people want to support it.”
Chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle will make a statement from Cuba at 5 p.m. Bogota time (6 p.m. in New York).
The agreement on illegal drugs was the third of six agenda points agreed by the parties. Negotiators had previously reached agreements on agrarian reform and political participation, and will next discuss the final points on the agenda, which are the end of the conflict, restitution of victims, and the implementation of the deals.
None of the agreements will take effect until a full peace deal is reached with an end to hostilities.
A surge in support for candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga could bring an end to the talks if he defeats Santos in presidential elections this month. Zuluaga, an ally of former President Alvaro Uribe, demands a unilateral cease-fire from the guerrillas before sitting down with them and opposes any deal that would grant them impunity for crimes or allow them seats in Congress.
A Gallup poll released yesterday shows Zuluaga would defeat Santos in a second round vote if it were held today, while other polls published this week by Datexco and Polimetrica give results that are within the margin of error.
After the failure of the last peace talks in 2002, Colombians elected Uribe, who pledged to take a tough line against the FARC. The guerrillas today announced a unilateral cease-fire from May 20-28.
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