Several thousand peasants and members of the dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) gathered on Saturday, April 15, in southern Colombia, in anticipation of a large unprecedented meeting on Sunday, to affirm their “commitment sincere and real” to negotiate peace with the government.

“We believe that it is possible to build peace, with social justice and from the territories”, declared to the press one of the commanders of this dissent, Andrey Avendano, leader of the “Front33”. “The Colombian people can have full confidence that our commitment to peace (…) is sincere and real,” the military official stressed.

He was speaking, alongside several other commanders, on behalf of the “Central Staff of the FARC” (EMC-FARC), the FARC’s main dissent, which had refused to sign the historic 2016 peace agreement between the government and the Marxist guerrillas. Its military leaders have been meeting since the beginning of April in this historic stronghold of the movement, in the Amazonian foothills of the Caqueta region, to define their strategy in their future peace talks with Bogota.

On the initiative of the left-wing president, Gustavo Petro, a six-month bilateral ceasefire has been agreed with the main factions of the FARC dissent since January 1, as well as with other armed groups. In the middle of last week, the government announced that the peace process with the EMC-FARC was “consolidating”.

Big rout

The EMC-FARC is organizing a large rally for this Sunday, a meeting with the “communities”, “peasant guards” and other rural organizations in these regions under rebel control. “The communities invited us to clarify the ongoing [peace] process,” Commander Andrey said. “After consulting with our commanders over the past few days, all of our units expressed their desire for peace for the benefit of the people. Tomorrow, we will make a political statement with the conclusions of our meeting, “he said, promising on this occasion the announcement of a date for the start of negotiations.

“We are very concerned about repeated ceasefire violations by government forces. But we hope that this will be resolved with the establishment of a verification mechanism from April 26, “commented another EMC-FARC commander, Danilo Alvizu. “Both sides will sit down and talk. But we want the communities, who are the first exposed to the violence, to be involved in verifying the ceasefire. Communities should not be left out,” Mr. Alvizu said.

In anticipation of the great raout this Sunday, thousands of people, members of these communities living in the rebel zone and of various social and peasant organizations, camped Saturday evening around a farm in the savannah of the San Vicente del Caguan region, noted Agence France-presse, invited to the scene.

The rebel commanders, surrounded by their armed escorts, occupied the buildings of the farm, while nearby the preparations for the meeting were accelerating, with sound system, podium and portraits of the deceased leaders or historical leaders of the Marxist group.

The dissident guerrillas are estimated to number at least 3,000 men and operate mainly in the Amazon, on the Pacific coast and on the Venezuelan border. Under the command of “Ivan Mordisco”, the EMC-FARC dissidents have federated in recent months at least three other “Fronts” of dissidents operating in several regions of the country.