Colombia’s largest guerrilla group suspended a unilateral cease-fire after armed forces killed 26 rebels in an attack Thursday, a move that could delay peace talks aimed at ending the country’s five-decade conflict.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said in a statement that President Juan Manuel Santos’s government precipitated the decision to end a cease-fire they declared in December. FARC guerrillas killed 11 soldiers in an April attack in the same province, Cauca, as yesterday’s raid, violating the unilateral cease-fire.
“We deplore the joint attack by the air-force, army and police carried out Thursday morning against a camp of the 29th Front,” the FARC said in the statement. “We insist on the need to agree to a bilateral ceasefire as soon possible, for the health of the peace process and to prevent more victims.”
Colombian government and FARC negotiators have been engaged in peace talks in Havana since late 2012 in a bid to end the Andean nation’s internal conflict.
On the six-point agenda, negotiators have so far reached draft agreements on rural development, rebel participation in politics and policies for combating drug trafficking. The two sides have yet to reach agreement on reparations for victims, the end of the conflict, and the implementation of the various points.
None of the draft agreements will take effect until a full deal is signed that ends hostilities. In their statement, the FARC said the peace talks would continue despite Thursday’s attack.
Rebel attacks on oil infrastructure last year contributed to the first annual decline in Colombian production since 2005. This year daily output has exceeded 1 million barrels as the number of attacks declined.
“This will make the talks last longer,” Jorge Restrepo, the head of Bogota-based research institute Cerac, said in a phone interview. “Now the FARC will start to attack the state’s economic interests such as oil pipelines and electric power stations. We will see a significant rise in the violence.”