FARC rebels declare unilateral ceasefire as peace talks open in Cuba


A Colombian woman holds up a flag that reads "Long live peace" during a march against violence in February.



FARC rebels have declared a unilateral ceasefire for the next two months, as they prepare to begin peace talks with the Colombian government in Cuba.

According to Reuters, it's the first time the left-wing guerrilla group has entered a truce in more than a decade.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, will halt all attacks from midnight tonight, Monday, until Jan. 20, according to the group's lead negotiator, Ivan Marquez.

He told reporters it was "a contribution made to strengthen the climate of understanding necessary so that the parties that are starting the dialogue achieve the purpose desired by all Colombians."

Rebel and government delegations arrived in the Cuban capital, Havana, today for the continuation of peace talks that began last month in Norway.

According to CNN, the ceasefire will most likely remain one-sided. The Colombian government has previously said that it will not enter a truce until a permanent agreement is reached to end Latin America's longest-running insurgency.

More from GlobalPost: FARC Decoded: What do the peace taks really mean?

Bogota maintains it has learned from "mistakes of the past," the BBC said, specifically the last time it agreed to halt military operations against the FARC, some 14 years ago. Critics say that the decision then to withdraw government forces from a large swathe of the south of Colombia allowed the rebels to rearm; a series of attacks across the rest of the country followed.

GlobalPost correspondent John Otis says that Colombians, while keen to see peace, are sharply divided over how far, if at all, the government should negotiate with the FARC, which has been designated as a terrorist group by the US State Department.

"The FARC enjoys almost no public support and many Colombians believe the army should simply try to destroy the rebel organization," he wrote in August, when the government first agreed to meet rebels for peace talks.

See GlobalPost's Americas editor Alex Leff answer questions on what the negotiations could mean for the people of Colombia: