Approaching year’s end we send sincere and respectful greetings to all of Colombian society and in particular to the poorest and most excluded sectors, wishing them joy and strength in spite of so many difficulties, and to reach their most precious goals in the New Year.
It is our duty to Colombian women and men to present a balance sheet of the outgoing year’s peace efforts in the dialogue between the National Liberation Army and Santos’ government.
Continuing on from the agreements achieved the previous year, at the end of March we managed to achieve an Agenda for the talks which was the basis for the public opening of negotiations in Quito, Ecuador. That Agenda aroused great hopes and expectations in Colombian society which is anxiously awaiting its active participation in the peace process.
That agreement on the Agenda would not have been possible without the contribution of thousands of Colombian people and of the international community, and in particular the efforts of the Venezuelan, Ecuadorean, Cuban, Norwegian, Chilean and Brazilian governments.
Just when we were celebrating getting to the point of opening public negotiations in Quito, President Santos blatantly imposed a unilateral condition which was not part of the agreement, demanding as a condition for opening talks “The release of kidnapped individuals and the abandonment of this activity”.
This was when President Santos and the oligarchy began to create obstacles, with the issue of kidnappings, a condition imposed beyond what had been agreed and signed previously.
President Santos ignores the fact that we are two parties acting on the basis of agreements, and that among the rules established there is one which says “To agree and to keep one’s word is the golden rule for peace”.
What followed between April and November was an unending tug-of-war in which the government tried to impose conditions on us while we tried to insist on the terms previously agreed. In order to seek a solution we showed great flexibility to find a way out, moving point 5F of the Agenda (Humanitarian Actions) to the beginning, in parallel with Point 1 which is Participation.
Through this effort we reached an agreement on October 6th whereby each side would undertake to release prisoners on humanitarian grounds. Once again we have fulfilled what was agreed, with the guarantor countries as witnesses, while the government once again failed to keep the agreement it had signed, and moreover proclaimed in the media that we were the ones who had broken our promise.
By preventing the opening of the public phase of talks on October 27th Santos’ government has left these negotiations in crisis after having previously signed agreements to begin.
We will never try to impose unilateral conditions on the government, and neither will we accept them, because in our view the two Parties put forward different proposals in order to arrive at compromises and agreements.
These events demonstrate arrogance and lack of a real desire for peace on the part of the regime, a tendency which is confirmed by the fact that the government has not even officially named its delegates for these talks. We on the other hand have attended with our complete official delegation, headed by a member of our Central Command.
Ever since we began the dialogue with Santos’ government we have repeatedly argued for the urgent need to agree on a bilateral cease-fire which would create a political and humanitarian atmosphere favourable to peace, but the government has refused.
This refusal goes along with the systematic murder of popular and social activists and Human Rights Defenders, the lack of actions by the Armed Forces against the paramilitary gangs, constant threats against critics of the regime, and an avalanche of repressive economic and political measures against the Colombian people and nation. These actions demonstrate the lack of will for peace and show instead the reactionary, conservative, violent and exclusive conduct of the dominant class.
Despite this difficult climate which is contrary to the peace desired by the Colombian majority and the international community, we will attend punctually the meeting between the two delegations agreed for next January 10th in Quito. We hope that by that time the government will officially have appointed its delegation.
In this process of negotiations we have not limited ourselves to discussions with the other Party, we have also held productive exchanges with Colombian political and social organizations, Church representatives, governments favourable to the peace process and various Colombian and foreign personalities, especially in relation to participation in the peace process by society in general. This viewpoint we have also expressed to the national and foreign media. To all of them we repeat our unwavering commitment to peace in Colombia.
None of our delegation’s work since October 27th last would have been possible without the solidarity, hospitality and tireless efforts of the government of the sister Republic of Ecuador, to whom we express our thanks and recognition.
Our efforts for peace in Colombia continue from now on, and so we want to ask the six guarantor countries and their representatives in the negotiations to continue their accompaniment and to provide their professional services, which are worthy of recognition.
In the year 2017 we shall be firm and united in the search for peace and in all the other proposals and plans outlined in our last National Congress, reaffirming the validity of our revolutionary, insurgent and popular struggle to achieve a goal of justice and social equity, of national independence and sovereignty, which is how we understand the socialist future.
Colombia for the Workers!
Not a single step back, freedom or death!
The Central Command of the National Leadership
National Liberation Army
From the mountains of Colombia,
25th December 2016