Half-century-long war with FARC ends
Colombia yesterday began its first day of peace with the country's largest insurgency after a ceasefire between the FARC and the government went into effect, ending 52 years of warfare.
The full ceasefire ordered by President Juan Manuel Santos and the head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Timoleon Jimenez, began at midnight Sunday (0500 GMT yesterday).
"This August 29 a new phase of history begins for Colombia. We silenced the guns. THE WAR WITH THE FARC IS OVER!" Santos wrote on Twitter one minute after midnight.
A message from the official FARC account at the same time was more restrained: "From this moment on the bilateral and definitive ceasefire begins."
In a declaration to reporters in Cuba, where peace talks were held, Jimenez said that he ordered all commanders and units, "and each one of our combatants to definitively cease fire and hostilities against the Colombian state" starting at midnight.
Santos ordered the Colombian armed forces on Thursday to halt anti-FARC operations at midnight Sunday.
The ceasefire is the first in which both sides are committed to a definite end to the fighting.
"The ceasefire is really one more seal on the end of the conflict. It is the test of fire," said Carlos Alfonso Velazquez, a security expert at the University of La Sabana.
Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have died since 1964 as rebel armies and gangs battled in the jungles in what is considered Latin America's last major civil armed conflict.
Santos and Jimenez are due to sign a final, full peace agreement sometime between September 20 and 26. The end of hostilities will be followed by a six-month demobilization process. Starting yesterday, the FARC's estimated 7,500 fighters will head to collection points to surrender their weapons.