Cuba offers 1,000 medical scholarships to Colombia peace process

 

March 16 2017
Source:  Granma

Cuban Ambassador to Colombia José Luis Ponce informed that the Caribbean nation will grant to the Colombian government and the FARC-EP a fund of 1,000 scholarships to study Medicine in the Island in the next five years

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Cuban Ambassador to Colombia, José Luis Ponce announced the opening of one thousand scholarships for Colombians in Cuba. Photo: Prensa Latina

BOGOTA .- Cuban Ambassador to Colombia, José Luis Ponce, informed that the Caribbean nation will grant to the Colombian government and the FARC-EP a fund of 1,000 scholarships to study Medicine in the Island in the next five years.

The Cuban diplomat made an offer to the Monitoring, Impulse and Verification Commission for the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement (CSIVI), while it was communicated in Bogotá to FARC-EP Secretariat member Iván Márquez and representatives Of the Government to the Commission.

A contribution by Cuba

Ponce explained that the distribution of the scholarships, at a rate of 200 per year -100 for the FARC-EP and 100 for the national executive- will be a contribution by Cuba to the implementation process of the Havana peace agreements and post-conflict peace in Colombia .

Students selected to receive such scholarships would begin in 2017-2018, according to Prensa Latina.

The program will be offered to young demobilized FARC-EP recruits, displaced persons, and other victims of the armed conflict, the latter chosen by the government. 


A pure gesture of humanity

The Embassy of the Republic of Cuba will provide the Colombian government and the FARC-EP with a document detailing the offer, which is being prepared by the Cuban authorities, said the diplomat of the island.

Cuba served as the venue for peace talks between the insurgency and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos for more than four years until 2016, while – along with Norway – served as a guarantor of bilateral talks.

In his Twitter account, Márquez stressed that this contribution of Cuba to the implementation process of the Havana Agreement and post-conflict in Colombia is a pure gesture of humanity.

Thanks to Cuba

To Army General Raúl Castro (President of Cuba), our gratitude for filling Colombia with his love and solidarity and for supporting the peace process and offering doctors, added the insurgent commander.

For her part, Colombian lawyer and excongresista Piedad Córdoba thanked the gesture of Cuba.

Despite being blockaded, the Caribbean country not only has medicine that is among the best in the world, but it is also one of the most supportive, wrote the human rights defender and recognized leader of the Latin American left through his account in the social network Twitter.

Cuba’s great contribution to peace continues: it gives one thousand scholarships to government and guerrilla students, said Senator Iván Cepeda, one of the promoters of talks with the insurgency in the same social network.

Challenges Lie Ahead as Colombia Celebrates Historic Peace Deal

Source:  TeleSUR
August 25 2016

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Colombians in Bogota watch the announcement of the end of negotiations and the text of the final peace deal in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 24, 2016. | Photo: EFE

Colombia has still not launched a peace process with the country’s smaller guerilla army, the ELN.

Colombia has made history in Latin America

Colombia has made history in Latin America with the groundbreaking peace deal between the government and left-wing FARC rebels, but while the over half century-long war is finally over, difficult times still lay ahead to fully realize the promise of peace in the South American nation.

IN DEPTH:  Peace in Colombia

Agreements on six key issues

The nearly four-year peace process in Havana, Cuba, between the 52-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos achieved a landmark deal including agreements on six key issues: agrarian reform, political participation, disarmament and reincorporation of former combatants, illicit drugs, victims’ rights, and implementation of the end of the war.

Chief negotiators from both sides of the conflict, government delegation head Humberto de la Calle and FARC leader Ivan Marquez, signed and spoke about this historic agreement on Tuesday evening in Havana.

The peace deal is not the end, but only the beginning

De la Calle declared that the war is over, and Marquez stressed that the peace deal is not the end, but only the beginning of an ongoing process of building stable and lasting peace.

And while Colombians are celebrating the unprecedented achievement of ending the longest war in the Americas, many are also pointing to the real challenges that lie ahead.

RELATED:   Peace at Last! FARC and Colombia Govt to Announce Final Deal

ELN

One of the issues that has not been part of the negotiations in Havana, but many, including the FARC, have frequently stressed as a key part of building peace is the question of ending hostilities between the government and the country’s smaller left-wing guerilla force, the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

Former ELN commander Carlos Velandia, alias Felipe Torres, applauded the announcement of the deal, heralding it as a “new era” that could give a “peaceful” push to “other conflicts” to follow a similar path.

The international community wants Latin America to be a zone of peace

“The war is coming to an end, because the Colombian nation has demanded it, because they’ve understood the parks of the conflict, because the international community wants Latin America to be a zone of peace,” Torres told Colombia’s El Espectador. “This is an achievement that benefits the country, nobody loses, everybody wins.”

The beginning of talks between the ELN and the government have stalled, though the rebel army has said it is open to beginning a process. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has offered to host the process, playing the role that Cuba played in the negotiations with the FARC since 2012.

The importance of a peace process with the ELN

Chief FARC peace negotiator Marquez also reiterated the importance of a peace process with the ELN while speaking in Havana Wednesday.

“We have that the ELN can find a way to approach (the process) so that the peace that we long for will be completed involving all Colombians,” he said.

Another outstanding question as the FARC and government unveil the historic agreement is what will happen to Simon Trinidad, a senior FARC leader jailed in a “supermax” prison in the United States.

IN DEPTH: Who is Simon Trinidad?

Unjust imprisonment of Simon Trinidad

Trinidad was extradited to the U.S. in 2004 on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering under the watch of former far-right President Alvaro Uribe, who opposes the new peace deal. Leaked cables have show his extradition request was concocted, as the U.S. did not have any pending charges against the high-ranking FARC leader. He is now serving a 60-year sentence in solitary confinement.

USA’s role in perpetuating the war

The FARC has long argued that freedom for Simon Trinidad is a cornerstone in securing peace and reintegrating demobilized rebels into society. Speaking on Wednesday, Marquez singled out the U.S. for its role in perpetuating the war and indicated that Trinidad is still on the movement’s agenda even though negotiations in Havana have ended.

“To the government of the United States, which for so long supported the state war against the guerilla and against social non-conformity, we ask that you continue backing in a transparent way the Colombian efforts to restore peace,” he said. “We await Simon Trinidad.”

Ahead of the much-anticipated announcement of the final deal, FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday, “I recall that the FARC designated Simon Trinidad as the coordinator of the process of laying down of arms.”

The 297-page final agreement makes no mention of Simon Trinidad.

The historic deal is set to be put to a vote on Oct. 2 to ratify the agreement with Colombian society by asking voters whether or not they accept the peace accords with the FARC.

‘The War Is Over’: FARC and Colombian State sign final peace deal

Source:  TeleSUR
August 24 2016

The final text of a peace agreement will now be put to a popular vote.

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Ivan Marquez and Humberto de la Calle shake hands while Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez looks on, after signing a final peace deal in Havana, Cuba | Photo: Reuters

The final text of a peace agreement will now be put to a popular vote.

In a landmark moment in Colombia’s history, the peace delegations of the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the country’s left-wing FARC rebels gathered Wednesday evening to announce the end of negotiations and the imminent signing of a final peace accord in Havana, Cuba, after nearly four years of negotiations between the two sides of the conflict.

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Cuban President Raul Castro oversees the handshake between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (L) and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez (R), Sept 2015.  Photo Archive

RELATED:  Colombia’s War and Peace Through the Eyes of a Dutch FARC Rebel

The opportunity of a new path

The two sides of the negotiating table have spent the last several days reviewing the final text, which will be put to a popular vote before it can be put into effect.

“The war is over,” said government’s representative Humberto de la Calle. However, “We should not just celebrate the silence of the guns, but the opportunity of a new path.”

“I am certain now that this is the best agreement possible,” he continued. “But the Colombians will judge. We have to wait with humility for the opinion of the citizenry.”

A new chapter, the battle of ideas

The FARC’s representative Ivan Marquez said the final deal marks a new chapter in Colombia’s history. “Now can start the battle of ideas,” he said. “The peace deal is a point of departure, not of closure, toward the social transformations demanded by the masses.”

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos had the last word, saying from the Colombian capital: “Today ends the pain, suffering, this great national hope has become reality.”

The head of state insisted that the text of the final agreement was “definitive,” and could not be modified.

We don’t want one more victim in Colombia

“From the beginning, one principle ruled the negotiations: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Today, at last we can say that everything has been agreed,” he added.

“We don’t want one more victim in Colombia,” added from Havana Dag Nylander, a peace guarantor from Norway, which along with Cuba has been helping moving the peace process along. “A new chapter of Colombia’s history is opened,” he said, with the final deal allowing for “more social inclusion, especially of those who have been excluded and historically more affected by the conflict.”

The historic deal will mark the end of 52 years of armed internal conflictbetween government forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, founded in 1964 on Marxist demands for agrarian reform and rights for rural communities. The conflict is the longest-running civil war in Latin America.

Peace, a right of Colombian citizens

Peace, Cuban peace guarantor Rodolfo Benitez noted, is guaranteed as a right of Colombian citizens in their nation’s constitution, something that has eluded the South American nation for the last five decades.

“The sum of the partial agreements reached so far are contributing to compliance with the rights and duties guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Benitez, including the fundamental rights of campesinos, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities. The final deal, he continued, “means to address the root causes of the conflict: land, property, (and) exclusion of campesinos, affecting especially women and children.”

Serious agrarian reform

The final agreement revealed Wednesday calls for serious agrarian reform to address inequality in the FARC’s poor, rural strongholds. It also calls to allow new political forces to address the issues that initially led the FARC to take up arms, and guarantees the safety of those who elect to drop those arms to participate in politics.

The agreement also calls to protect human rights activists and labor organizers who have been targeted by right-wing paramilitaries; promoting alternatives to illicit drug production; providing reparations for victims of violence on all sides; and creating a commission, including representatives from the government and the FARC, to monitor the implementation alongside the United Nations.

Four years of negotiations in Havana

The announcement will bring an end of nearly four years of negotiations in Havana, launched in 2012. FARC leaders will now take the agreement back to their camps to share their information with their ranks, which is highly-anticipated to be the last such FARC conference with armed rebels before the group transitions into a non-military political movement in accordance with the peace agreement.

OPINION:   Key Challenges for Colombia’s Peace Process

Negotiators have already reached and announced landmark partial agreements related to five central matters: political participation, end of the conflict, transitional justice, agrarian reform, and crop substitution for illicit coca crops. The announcement of a bilateral cease-fire deal in June was widely celebrated as signaling the end of the war.

Democratic legitimacy

The vote on the final peace agreement is expected to take place on Oct.2 and is aimed at giving democratic legitimacy to the peace agreement. Electoral authorities will determine whether public funds will finance the campaigns in favor and against the peace deal.

To pass, the majority of 4.5 million Colombian voters, a 13 percent participation threshold, need to vote “Yes” in the plebiscite. In the unlikely event that the deal is voted down, it would not mean that aspects of the peace agreement would be renegotiated, but it could frustrate the implementation of the deal. The government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said recently that it would bea “huge mistake” to try to reopen negotiations with the FARC and that Colombian society would have little to gain from such a move.

OPINION:  Colombia Eyewitness: The Last Day of the War

Far-right former president opposes peace

Santos and the FARC evidently support a “Yes” vote in the plebiscite. Far-right former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, whose presidency saw record level of human rights violations and people fleeing the country as refugees, has been pushing for a “No” vote. According to a recent Gallup poll, of the half of the population that had made up their mind on how they will vote, 67.5 percent are expected to vote in favor of ratifying the final peace deal, while 32.5 percent would vote against it.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Radio Caracol reported that most issues have been resolved. “Both parts agreed to design a new proposal for a more sensible reinsertion for the FARC fighters, while the government committed to present an amnesty bill,” the outlet reported.

The FARC argues that the end of the war is the beginning of peace and a process of reconciliation to unite “two Colombias,” one of which represents the marginalized groups that have suffered most under the armed conflict.

Colombia’s over five-decade civil war has killed over 220,000 victims and uprooted some 6.3 million people, making it home to the second largest population of internally displaced peoples in the world after Syria.

Timoleón Jiménez: May this be the last day of war

Source:  Granma
June 23 2016

by: National news staff | informacion@granma.cu

Remarks by the FARC Comandante following the signing of a ceasefire agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC_EP)

Timoleón Jiménez

Timoleon Jimenez.  Photo:  Jorge Luis Gonzalez

“May this be the last day of war,” were the words FARC Comandante Timoleón Jiménez chose to begin his comments following the signing of a ceasefire agreement with the Colombian government, going on to recall former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who he described as “a warrior for peace in Latin America and the Caribbean, without whose valuable initiative and efforts, this historic event would not have been possible.”

Jiménez noted that 52 years after the beginning of the conflict, the FARC had reached agreement with the Colombian government, which “leaves us at the threshold” of a final accord, allowing for a return to legal, democratic political life.

A product of dialogue

What Presidents from guarantor and accompanying countries present here can attest to is that this agreement is not a capitulation on the part of the insurgents, but rather a product of dialogue between two forces which have been in fighting for half a century, without being able to defeat the other, he said.

The guerrilla leader said that the signing of the accords cannot be interpreted as something imposed, that the process involved long discussions and times of frustration, but that anyone who denies the importance of these agreements is causing great harm to the country.

The beginning of lasting peace

He expressed his confidence that final agreement was near, to put an end to the conflict and signal the beginning of lasting peace. Remaining to be resolved, he said, are a few key points, but that a struggle will be required to ensure that what is agreed is, in fact, implemented. An ongoing mobilization of the people, Jiménez insisted, will be necessary.

He said that the FARC-EP will be involved in the country’s political life, using peaceful, legal means, with the same rights afforded all political, noting that the Colombian government must ensure that citizens are not persecuted for their political positions.

He likewise emphasized the important role communities will play in ensuring the peace in rural areas, and eliminating unemployment, insecurity, the lack of public services, crime, and paramilitary groups.

Jiménez commented that those who will benefit the most from an agreement are future generations, and that is why the FARC is extending its hand to youth, to construct of a new country, to defend peace and reconciliation.

The FARC-EP Chief of Staff concluded his comments as he began, “We are confident that within a reasonable time, we will celebrate the signing of a final agreement. May this be the last day of war.”

Fidel and Chavez’ Role in the Colombian Peace Process

Source:  The Guardian, Granma

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On Saturday October 13 2012, in an article cited as three years old and titled Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez played role in Colombia’s peace talks with Farc,  the Guardian Newspaper wrote that Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez “played a critical role in bringing the Colombian government and the Farc guerrilla group together for peace talks that could end one of Latin America’s longest-running civil wars, the Observer has learned.

“According to sources closely involved in the peace process, which sees historic talks opening in Oslo on Wednesday, the key breakthrough after almost four years of back-channel talks between the two sides came during a visit earlier this year by Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, to Cuba, where he met both Castro and Chávez, who was in Cuba being treated for cancer.

The first meeting in Havana

“That meeting was the first of many in Havana between the two sides, facilitated primarily by Cuba and Norway with the backing of Venezuela, which saw agreement on the detailed agenda for the first round of talks this week. “Officially President Santos went to Cuba to discuss the Americas summit,” said a source intimately involved in the peace negotiations. “But the purpose of that trip was to discuss the peace initiative.”

“The meetings earlier this year followed the decision last year by Santos to take the step of recognising that an “armed conflict” existed in his country, an initiative encouraged by Chávez since 2008. Those contacts also came in the same period that Farc announced it was ending kidnapping, one of five preconditions for talks that had been set down by Santos as a gesture of goodwill …

“The disclosure of the key role of Cuba in organising support for the peace process marked the culmination of a long period of back-channel talks first initiated by Santos’s predecessor as president, Alvaro Uribe, under whom Santos served as minister of defence.

“During those four years contacts continued despite the death during an army operation of Farc’s leader, Alfonso Cano, last year.”

Nicolás Maduro

Upon his arrival in Havana for the signing of the peace agreement, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro emphasized Hugo Chávez’s role in the peace process stating that “I am here for him.”

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President Nicolas Maduro arrives in Cuba for the signing of the Colombia peace agreement

Maduro recalled that Chávez, on the request of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, was one of the initiators of the peace talks in Havana, convened to put an end to a 50-year long armed conflict.

“The diplomacy of peace must be noted at this historical time,” he said after congratulating the Colombian people, President Santos, and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces-People’s Army (FARC-EP), for the progress made over the last few months, adding, “Colombia’s peace is everyone’s peace.”

Venezuela serves as an accompanying country to the peace talks, along with Chile, while Norway and Cuba are the guarantors.

Colombian gov’t, FARC rebels sign historic ceasefire agreement in Cuba (Video)

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raul the peace maker 5Raul:  Peace is not a utopia

“Peace will be a victory not only for the entire Colombia, but also for all of Our America. The short history of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) recorded a major landmark, which was the proclamation of this region as a Zone of Peace.

The end of the armed conflict in Colombia will be a new evidence of the rock-solid commitment of our peoples against the use and the threat of use of force and in favor of the peaceful settlement of controversies. In the face of differences, dialogue is of the essence. In the face of challenges concerted actions should prevail.

The achievement of peace in Colombia will also represent a hope for millions of persons in the planet, whose main concern continues to be the human survival in a world shaken by violence and wars.

Peace is not a utopia; it is a legitimate right of every human being and of all peoples. It is a fundamental condition for the enjoyment of all human rights, particularly the supreme right to life.”    Raul Castro

Raul Castro: There is no turning back on the Colombian peace process

Source:  Granma
June 23 2016

by: National news staff | informacion@granma.cu

Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz comments on recent agreements to end armed conflict in Colombia

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There is no turning back in this peace process, said Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz referring to the peace talks underway in Havana to end the armed conflict in Colombia, the continent’s longest. He spoke during the signing ceremony, today June 23, for the recent agreements reached by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP).

After greeting the many heads of state and other dignitaries in attendance, he stated:

On November 19, 2012, the Table Talks between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army started to work in Havana.

In those days, there were quite a few who predicted a failure, as had previously occurred in Colombia in former peace processes. However, the transcendental agreements that the Peace Talks Table has announced today places us closer than ever before to the end of the armed conflict that has been suffered for more than five decades by the brother people of Colombia.

The decision of the Parties to sign today the agreements on the cease fire and the end of bilateral hostilities, the laying down of weapons and security guarantees is a decisive step forward. The peace process has reached a point of no return.

A victory not only for Colombia but the region

Peace will be a victory not only for the entire Colombia, but also a victory for all of Our America. The short history of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) recorded a major landmark, which was the proclamation of this region as a Zone of Peace. The end of the armed conflict in Colombia will be a new evidence of the rock-solid commitment of our peoples against the use and the threat of use of force and in favor of the peaceful settlement of controversies. In the face of differences, dialogue is of the essence. In the face of challenges concerted actions should prevail.

The achievement of peace represents hope for millions

The achievement of peace in Colombia will also represent a hope for millions of persons in the planet, whose main concern continues to be the human survival in a world shaken by violence and wars.

Peace is not a utopia; it is a legitimate right of every human being and of all peoples. It is a fundamental condition for the enjoyment of all human rights, particularly the supreme right to life.

Esteemed participants and guests:

The commitment of the Cuban people and government with peace in Colombia has been and will be permanent, and we will remain faithful to Martí’s legacy: “Homeland is Humanity.”

Cuba will continue to contribute to the end of the conflict

Cuba, in its condition as guarantor and host of these talks, will continue to offer all necessary facilities and contribute to the extent of its possibilities to the end of the conflict, with modesty, discretion and a profound respect for the positions of both Parties.

I would like to conclude by congratulating the government of Colombia and FARC-EP. Both Parties have worked tirelessly in a serious and committed way, to achieve the crucial progress announced today.

There are still important and difficult questions which remain pending at the Peace Talks Table, but we feel optimistic. We are more convinced than ever that Peace will be the future of Colombia.

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Thank you, very much. (Minrex translation)

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