Colombian rebels deny talks near collapse
Colombia's main rebel group denied on Monday that peace negotiations with the government are foundering and accused that country's media of trying to derail the talks.
"The negotiations are continuing in a normal way," said Marco Leon Calarca, a negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, reading a statement he received from rebel command. "Nobody has walked out or formally threatened to withdraw" from the talks.
Government negotiators had no comment.
Calarca, whose real name is Luis Alberto Alban, blamed sectors of the Colombian media for hyping disagreements between rebels and the Colombian government and advocating against the talks. He singled out Caracol radio, one of the country's most listened to stations, as being behind attempts to sabotage the effort by turning public opinion against the rebels.
Reports that the talks were near collapse began shortly after the FARC lifted its unilateral cease fire on January 20. Attacks since then, mostly in southern Colombia, have resulted in the death or capture of several soldiers and police.
Calarca said it was hypocritical for Colombian leaders to condemn the FARC for its military offensive while applauding the death of rebel leaders at the hands of the armed forces. The government refused to join the FARC cease-fire and has kept up operations even as negotiators sat together in Havana.
Talks to end the half-century old conflict got underway in October in Oslo, Norway, and have continued in Havana. Early negotiations have centered on land reform, and while details of the closed door meetings are sparse, both sides have complained of slow progress.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said that agreement must be reached by November or he will pull out of the talks.