Colombia’s peace commissioner meets with FARC dissidents

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Colombia’s peace commissioner has met with leaders of a major dissident faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a possible step towards peace talks, both sides said in a published statement.

Latin America’s most fearsome guerrilla group, FARC signed a peace deal with the state in 2016 to end more than half a century of armed conflict.

But some guerrillas, unable to find a niche in civilian life, joined dissidents linked to the illegal trade in drugs and mining resources.

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Peace commissioner Danilo Rueda met with four high-ranking members of a holdout FARC group in the southern region of Caqueta, according to an undated joint statement published on Saturday in a local newspaper.

“We have held an exploratory and rapprochement meeting to assess the possibility of initiating talks in the framework of total peace,” the statement said.

The FARC members were identified in the statement as “Calarca Cordoba, Alonso 45, Ermes Tovar and Erika Castro.”

A photo of Rueda and four uniformed men was published alongside the statement, which added that the two sides also agreed on “a confidential protocol to guarantee a meeting” of the guerrilla commanders.

United Nations representative Raul Rosende and Norwegian diplomat Dag Nagoda also appeared in the photo.

Colombia’s first-ever leftist President Gustavo Petro is pursuing a policy of “total peace” with all armed groups.

Rueda said on Thursday that former FARC senior commander Ivan Marquez, who is now the head of another dissident faction, had expressed interest in taking part in fresh talks.

“It is possible to imagine that we could be on the brink” of a multilateral ceasefire, Rueda said.

After the 2016 deal, the former Marxist FARC guerrillas formed a communist political party that is guaranteed 10 seats in congress.

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