March 19, 2015 / 2:53 PM / 3 years ago

Colombian rebels threaten to end unilateral truce

HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia’s Marxist-led FARC guerrillas on Thursday threatened to end a unilateral truce that has been in place since December unless the government of President Juan Manuel Santos calls off military attacks on rebel positions.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) called a truce at Christmastime and Santos responded on March 10 by announcing Colombia’s armed forces would halt aerial bombing raids for one month, saying the reprieve could be extended if the FARC continued its ceasefire.

But the FARC complained that the Colombian military was carrying out other offensive maneuvers. A day before Santos announced the halt to aerial bombing, the Colombian army said it had killed longtime FARC commander Jose David Suarez, leader of a rebel front near the Panamanian border.

“We are asking President Santos to do something to save the unilateral and indefinite called by the FARC. Stop these military operations against the guerrilla forces now,” rebel leader Ivan Marquez told reporters in Havana, the site of peace talks.

“Please don’t force us to break (the truce),” Marquez said.

The Santos government and FARC have been meeting in Cuba for nearly 2-1/2 years in an attempt to end Latin America’s longest war, which has killed around 220,000 people and displaced millions since 1964.

Fighting has continued during the talks, and bombings raids against the FARC’s remote jungle and mountain hideouts have enabled the government to kill several high-ranking rebel leaders in recent years.

Peace negotiators have reached partial deals on land reform, an end to the illegal drugs trade and participation by former rebels in politics. They are now discussing victim reparations and rebel demobilization.

In a side agreement, the two sides have also announced a joint effort to begin removing landmines across the country.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Tom Brown

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