Colombia: March 2016 deadline for peace?

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos in early November announced a March 23, 2016 deadline for a peace accord with the FARC rebels, and broached a bilerateral ceasefire that he said could take effect next month and should be monitored by the United Nations. The FARC is currently maintaining a unilateral ceasefire while the military has drastically reduced its offensives against the guerillas. But FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri AKA "Timochenko" expressed skepticism about the deadline, instead calling in his Twitter account on Santos to concentrate on an actual end to hostilities. The exchange came as the peace talks, being held in Havana, approached their third anniversary. (Colombia Reports, Nov. 16; El Tiempo, Nov. 13; El Tiempo, Nov. 11; El Tiempo, Nov. 8)

In September, Santos said he was "convinced" that FARC leaders "want peace." He assured that guerilla leaders would not be extradited to the US after a peace accord, and would be allowed to participate in the political process. (El Tiempo, Sept. 30) Timochenko responded by saying that the FARC was suspending all procurement of weapons and military training, to concentrate instead on transitioning to a political formation. (El Tiempo, Nov. 10; Espectador, Oct. 1) But Santos also said that those responsible for "grave crimes" (presumably on both sides of the conflict) would be prosecuted. There was some ambiguity as to whether those convicted would have to serve their sentences in prison or under a form of house arrest. (El Teimpo, Sept. 27)

Both sides agreed that a final peace deal would have to be approved by a popular referendum. The government said this would have to have participation by at least 13% of the electorate to be legitimate. (El Tiempo, Nov. 12)

Former Uruguayan president José Mujicahimself a veteran guerilla—said he had accepted an offer from the FARC to help broker the talks in Havana. "I agreed to cooperate because I understand that this is a progressive cause," Mujica told a Colombian radio station. "Achieving peace, where for 50 years rifles have spoken, is not only important for Colombia; it is important for our America." (TeleSur, Oct. 22)