After Killing 8, Colombian Guerrillas go on Christmas Truce

PHOTO: Commanders of the FARC-EP leftist guerrillas Jesus Santrich (L), Ivan Marquez (R) and Pablo Catatumbo (C)  read a statement at Convention Palace in Havana during the peace talks with the Colombian government, on December 8, 2013.

Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images

Colombia's FARC guerrillas killed eight people over the weekend in an attack on a rural police station. But they say they still want to give peace a chance. On Sunday, the rebels announced a month-long unilateral ceasefire that will cover the Christmas holiday.

The 30 day long pause in guerrilla operations will begin on December 15th, and is being conducted in response to a "deep national longing," for peace, FARC leader Pablo Catatumbo said on Sunday.

But the idea that the FARC bombs a police station one day, and calls for a ceasefire the next day did not go down well with some Colombians, who accused the rebels of being hypocrites.

Former president Alvaro Uribe, a fierce critic of current peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government, accused the guerrillas of "playing games" with the Colombian people.

The FARC, naturally, defended their actions, saying that Saturday's attack on a police station in the remote town of Inzá was just "part of the confrontation that is taking place in Colombia, which is currently being addressed by peace talks."

The FARC and the Colombian government have been in peace talks for the past 14 months, with representative from both camps meeting regularly in Havana, Cuba, to discuss a wide range of issues.

But fighting between both sides has continued on the field, with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, refusing to grant the rebels a ceasefire, arguing that it could help them to regroup, and would encourage them to stall on peace talks.

As a result war casualties in Colombia are still high, with more than 200 guerrillas killed so far this year, and 224 soldiers "assassinated while serving the nation," according to Colombia's Ministry of Defense.

The FARC have also continued to stage attacks on oil pipelines and Colombia's electricity grid on a regular basis.

On Saturday President Santos vowed to step up his offensive against the guerrillas, so that they "will no longer have the capacity," to attack towns like Inza. He has also said that his forces will continue to pursue the FARC over the next month, even if the guerrillas have declared a "truce."

Last year, the guerrillas also went for a unilateral Christmas truce.

Adam Isacson, an expert on the Colombian conflict at the Washington Office on Latin America, said that the rebels, whose numbers have dwindled over the past five years, are trying to reap some small benefits from these one-sided ceasefires.

"It makes them look less bloodthirsty," Isacson wrote in an email. "Last year-- when compliance with the truce was over 85 percent-- it showed that there was still strong command and control of guerrilla units."

Isacson noted however, that nothing will stop the government from attacking the rebels during the upcoming truce. He said that during last year's Christmas truce the military took out two FARC encampments killing dozens of guerrillas.

"The government didn't seem to suffer any damage to its image in the media and public opinion," after the attack, Isacson said.


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