Colombian officials against peace, says FARC leader

AFP , Thursday 2 Aug 2012

Colombian guerrilla group, FARC claim peace talks are purposely stalled by the the 'political class'

A high-ranking commander of Colombia's leftist FARC guerrillas claims peace talks to end the group's decades-old rebellion are being blocked by government officials who benefit from the conflict.

"We must stop this war by reaching an agreement ... without hatred, without benefits, by making concessions," said Jose Benito Cabrera, in an interview broadcast Tuesday evening on the private television station Caracol.

But he accused Colombia's "political class" of not wanting to negotiate, saying lower-ranking soldiers want peace but "their leaders, their supervisors don't permit it, because it would mean an end of business for them," without offering any details.

Cabrera, also known as Fabian Ramirez, also warned that, even though the FARC pledged earlier this year to cease kidnapping civilians for ransom, the militants would continue to seize soldiers.

The guerrillas kidnapped French journalist Romeo Langlois in April during a clash with the military. He was released about a month later.

This was Cabrera's first public appearance since November 2010, when he was thought to have been killed in a bombing raid by Colombian forces in the south of the country.

He is wanted under 13 arrest warrants on charges that include terrorism, murder and drug trafficking.

In recent months, the FARC has proposed direct dialogue with Colombian President Juan Miguel Santos to put an end to the conflict.

In June, Colombia's congress passed a constitutional reform bill that would allow negotiations to go forward.

It allows for the possibility of granting lighter penalties to militant leaders who agree to demobilize and would allow guerrillas to have political representation -- though anyone convicted of crimes against humanity would not be able to run for office.

The FARC, founded in 1964, is Colombia's oldest and largest insurgent group. It is believed to have about 9,000 fighters, most of them hiding out in mountainous and jungle areas.

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