Peace deal comes to a close
Colombia's president said yesterday that government negotiators and leftist rebels are putting the final touches on a peace deal that they hope to announce in the coming hours.
"Today, I hope to give historic, very important news to the country," President Juan Manuel Santos said at an education event.
Government negotiators told local news media earlier that all major obstacles to a deal have been cleared up in around-the-clock sessions taking place in Cuba for the past week. But some representatives for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia cautioned on social media that some details remain to be worked out.
Once negotiations conclude, the accord must still be ratified by voters in a plebiscite. But just the wrapping up of talks opens the possibility for Colombians to put behind them more than 50 years of political bloodshed that has claimed more than 220,000 victims and driven more than five million people from their homes.
The accord would commit Colombia's government to carrying out aggressive land reform, an overhaul of its anti-narcotics strategy, and an expansion of political protections for leftist activists and traditionally marginalised groups.
Negotiations began in November 2012 and were plagued by distrust built up during decades of war propaganda on both sides.
The rebel army known as FARC was forced to the negotiating table after a decade of heavy battlefield losses that saw a succession of top rebel commanders killed by the US-backed military and the its ranks thinned by half to the current 7,000 troops.
President Juan Manuel Santos, an unlikely peacemaker given his role as architect of the military offensive, throughout maintained a steady pulse even as he was labelled a traitor by his conservative former allies and suffered a plunge in approval ratings.
The most contentious breakthrough came in September when the two sides laid out a framework for investigating atrocities, punishing guerrillas for involvement in those abuses and offering compensation to victims.