In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, the head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Timoleon Jimenez, emphasized the rebel group's commitment to achieving peace in Colombia.
Jimenez, alias Timochenko, spoke with Colombian human rights defender Piedad Cordoba during his stay in Havana, Cuba last week to sign a partial agreement regarding a system for transitional justice.
The topic of transitional justice was considered to be the most sensitive and contentious topic during negotiations and the signing of the partial agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government, is seen as a milestone for the peace process.
“If both parties continue with the same will, then surely we will have a (final) deal,” Timochenko told teleSUR.
The signing of this agreement between Commander Timochenko and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos marked the first occasion the two were pictured together, with many Colombians now hopeful that a final deal is at hand.
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In a candid conversation with Cordoba, the head of the FARC details his impressions of the ceremony in Havana, telling her that he was surprised at the amount of people present. Timochenko is considered a primarily military leader, infrequently venturing out of FARC camps in the Colombian jungle and rarely seen on camera.
These latest talks, which began nearly three years ago, have thus far been the most successful effort to end the five-decade-long conflict. Previous peace talks ended without a final deal.
The political will to end Latin America's longest running conflict appears stronger than ever. The talks survived a number of high-profile incidents, such as the capture of Army General Ruben Alzate by the FARC, that threatened to cut the talks short.
Nonetheless, pundits and politicians in Colombia have accused the FARC of not being sincerely interested in peace, something Timochenko refutes, arguing that “the facts speak for themselves.”
Timochenko says the rebels have been working hard to share the developments outcomes of the peace talks with the guerrillas in the jungle, and with Colombian society at large, in order to help ensure that a final deal will actually bring peace.
The FARC Commander tells teleSUR that this effort has “a more pedagogical dissemination, a more simple dissemination of all that we have agreed to.”
Jairo Martinez, one of the FARC's negotiators, was killed in a government airstrike in May while visiting a rebel camp to conduct this very kind of work.
Workshops on the progress of the peace talks are not limited solely to guerrillas, meetings are also held within communities and with civilians. According to Timochenko the FARC is undertaking this effort so that Colombians can discuss agreements, add to them and even contest them. For the FARC leader, to do otherwise would be hypocritical.
“We are talking about democracy, how we conceive it, it would do us no good to go after those who at a given moment might criticize this or that (aspect of the peace process).”
However he cautions that this does not mean the peace process can be undermined. The peace process has fierce opponents in Colombia, led by former president Alvaro Uribe and his allies, who have questioned the peace process at every turn.
“What is unjustifiable is whose who want the war to continue and look for something to latch onto in order to try to reverse that environment (of peace),” said Timochenko.
One important announcement also made at the signing ceremony was news that the parties had agreed to conclude negotiations within six months. This announcement came as surprise to most, as the FARC had been hesitant to embrace deadlines.
“I have never agreed with deadlines, they can be fatal, they're dangerous, especially for us (rebels) … The state has a media capacity, to sell a lie and make it a true,” said the FARC leader.
Timochenko explained to teleSUR that he worried that with a firm deadline in place at the start, the government would lack the necessary will to negotiate in good faith and would engage in stalling tactics.
As to why he had a change of heart and agreed to a deadline, Timochenko said, “The president, looking at me in the eyes, gave me his word that would not happen.”
Timochenko told teleSUR that he is keenly aware of the expectations people have that this peace process will conclude successfully and that the rebels are working to ensure a deal is reached.
“The hope that people have that we will achieve peace, that leads us to proceed with caution, with great tact, because we have not yet signed a final deal,” said Timochenko.
Watch the complete interview below.