.- The Vice President of the Colombian Bishops Conference, Bishop Luis Augusto Castro, announced that the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have reached an agreement for the first time in negotiations sponsored by the Catholic Church. Both sides agreed that guerilla soldiers that the government will eventually release should remain in the country. Bishop Castro, who heads up the negotiating commission authorized by President Alvaro Uribe, said, “We are little by little reaching common agreements, with the knowledge that there are still great differences.”
During the first day of the Colombian Bishops’ Plenary Assembly, Bishop Castro told reporters that as a starting point, the government and the FARC “are in agreement” about the necessity to arrive at a consensus that will allow hostages held by the rebels to go free, in exchange for allowing guerilla soldiers who will be released by the government to stay in the country.
Details regarding how the rebels will remain in the country still need to be worked out.
During the bishops’ meeting, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, Archbishop of Bogotá, said the Catholic Church supports a negotiated peace settlement, with social justice and without impunity. He stated the negotiations with armed rebels should take place in keeping with “fundamental rights in the context of truth, justice and reparation.”
He also emphasized that “in order to advance on the road to building peace, it is necessary that those responsible for offenses against human life and the dignity of the person, recognize the evil they have done and show signs, with acts of reparation, of their desire to be integrated into society, and that victims rid themselves of feelings of revenge and hatred.”
The Cardinal also called on both sides to reach a humanitarian agreement to alleviate “the thousands of Colombians who are victims of violence, forced relocation and abandonment by the state.”
The FARC continues to hold 60 Colombians and foreign nationals hostage, including politicians, civilians and military personnel, and 3 US citizens.