When it was founded in the 1960s, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) promised to represent the rural poor in its fight against the wealthy elite who ran the Colombian state by championing ideals of social equality and land reform. The elite responded by creating right-wing paramilitary groups to oppose the rebels, and the two have been engaged in a civil war ever since. Along the way, things got complicated by the drug trade – which fueled both sides of the conflict – and the FARC’s adoption of extortion, kidnapping, and illegal gold mining as ways to exert political pressure and finance their war.
Today, FARC and Colombia announced that they have reached a bilateral ceasefire, taking a big step toward ending the hemisphere’s longest-running insurgency. “We have arrived with success at an agreement on the bilateral and definitive ceasefire and end to hostilities,” they said in a statement, according to The Guardian. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, aka Timochenko, are expected to sign an accord on Thursday in Havana. Disarmament and demilitarization of 7,000 FARC fighters is expected to begin soon, but the three-year negotiations still need to be finalized.
If a final deal is reached, it would put an end to the nation’s more than 50-year conflict with the leftist rebel group, during which 220,000 people have died and more than 6 million have been displaced. With increased pressure and a dip in approval ratings, President Santos hopes peace talks end by July 20 – Colombia’s Independence Day. Previous deadlines have come and gone (check out a history of previous talks here), which has made the public skeptical about these promises. Additionally, as the Washington Post notes, FARC is in less of a hurry because they are more concerned about ensuring the safety of their members once they return to civilian life.
According to the Miami Herald, Santos has promised that a national referendum will take place after a deal is reached. Polls suggest that most people are in favor of peace, but there’s also fear that an accord could allow guerillas to seize power and/or slink off without being held accountable for their crimes.
But with this momentous announcement, Colombian Twitter lit up with #ElUltimoDiaDeLaGuerra, where they shared their hopes and reservations. Check out a collection of tweets below: