ColombiaJohn Kerry to meet leaders of Colombia’s FARC guerillas in Cuba today

Published 21 March 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry will meet today (Monday) in Havana with the leaders of the Colombian Marxist guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). FARC has been fighting successive Colombian governments since the early 1960s, and is in control of an area the size of Switzerland in the mountainous jungles of central Colombia. In 1997 FARC has been designated a terrorist group by the State Department. Since last fall, the Colombian government and FARC, with the support of the UN, have been negotiating a peace pact.

Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with leaders of the Colombian Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia t (FARC) guerilla group today (Monday) while visiting Cuba with President Barack Obama.

The purpose of the meeting is the assess the progress of the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC, negotiations aiming to end the 50-year conflict.

The Telegraphy reports that a source at Colombia’s Office of the High Commissioner for Peace and sources close to FARC confirmed the meeting.

It has been scheduled, the meeting with Kerry,” FARC negotiator Pastor Alape told Reuters news agency, adding that the rebels would first meet the US special envoy for Colombian peace talks, Bernard Aronson, to agree on an agenda.

The Colombian government, one of the U.S. closest allies in the hemisphere, has been negotiating with the FARC for months in an effort to reach a deal which Colombians would have to approve in a referendum. There are a few points yet to be ironed out. The two most important ones are the scope and pace of FARC disarmament, which would be supervised by the UN, and who and how many FARC senior officers and would have to stand trial for crimes they have ordered, and how many senior officers would receive amnesty.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londono have set a March 23 deadline to reach a comprehensive peace agreement, but have since admitted that goal may not be realistic.

The Department of State has designated the FARC as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, and many of its leaders have been indicted in the United States on charges of narcotics trafficking.

Kerry’s unprecedented meeting will coincide with an exhibition game between Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba’s national baseball on Tuesday. The game will be attended by President Barack Obama, who started an official visit to Cuba on Sunday.

Negotiators from the FARC and Colombia’s government have also been invited to attend the game with Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro.