FARC commander ‘open to talks’

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FARC commander 'open to talks'

Colombia’s Farc rebels are open to negotiations with the government if they get guarantees for safe conditions for talks, the top guerrilla commander said in an interview.

Alfonso Cano, who took over the Farc leadership more than a year ago, told the local Cambio magazine the rebels were open to negotiating to end the four-decade-old conflict, but gave no details on what guarantees he wanted.

President Alvaro Uribe’s US-backed security campaign has battered the Farc to its weakest in years. Guerrillas have been driven into remote areas and violence has eased. But talks to end Latin America’s oldest insurgency still appear remote.

“What will determine this will be the official guarantees for a meeting between the government and the Farc to clear any danger and tension among participants and improve conditions for talks,” Cano said in a e-mailed response to questions sent by the magazine.

“We have to talk, to have dialogue and that means space and guarantees,” he said in the rare interview.

But he wrote there was no contact with Mr Uribe’s government, which has received hundreds of millions in US aid to counter rebels and drug trafficking that makes Colombia the world’s top-ranked cocaine exporter.

Once a peasant army controlling large parts of Colombia, the Farc has been badly hurt by the loss of top commanders and by desertions as it comes under heavy military pressure. But they remain a force in remote, rural areas.

Attempts to reach an agreement to free more than 20 soldiers and police held hostage by the Farc as an initial step have been stalled over terms of their release. The Farc says it will free one captive held for more than a decade.

Rebels want to exchange their captives for jailed rebel fighters. But in recent communiques they have stopped making reference to the New York City-sized swath of land they demanded be demilitarised before any talks.

Source: IrishTimes.com

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