* Government pushing for agreement on agrarian reform
* Rebels say hopeful of finding political solution to
* Talks began five months ago
By Jeff Franks
HAVANA, April 23 Colombia and the Marxist FARC
rebels launched their latest round of peace talks on Tuesday in
Havana after a month-long break in a process aimed at ending
half a century of bloody conflict in the South American nation.
At the end of their last round on March 21, both sides cited
progress toward an accord on the key issue of agrarian reform,
which lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle said needs
to be settled soon so they can move on to other issues.
"We arrive in Havana today with the objective of making
decisions," he said in a statement to reporters before entering
Havana's main convention center where the talks are being held.
"We want results," he said. "This is a process that cannot
be prolonged indefinitely."
The rebels' top negotiator, Ivan Marquez, said his team was
beginning the latest round "with hope beating in our warrior
chests of being able to find, at last, a political solution to
this long conflict."
Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been
displaced in Latin America's longest-running rebel insurgency, a
Cold War holdover that began in 1964 with the founding of the
FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, as a communist
agrarian reform movement.
The two sides, who began their talks on Nov. 19, are trying
to reach agreement on the key issue of rural development and
land reform, with the aim of addressing the root of the conflict
- Colombia's long history of social inequality and the
concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few.
The guerrillas have proposed giving 20 million hectares
(49.4 million acres) of land to the poor and establishing a
limit on how much property big landowners can have.
The government has insisted no land will be taken from
private landowners, but de la Calle said at the end of the last
round that there would be no peace without addressing the
problems in the countryside, including the lack of land for the
Still ahead on the talks' five-point agenda are the
difficult issues of political and legal status of rebels, ending
the conflict, compensation for war victims, and the drug
trafficking that has helped fund rebel activities for years.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos secretly initiated
the talks on the bet that the rebels, believed to number 8,000
to 9,000, have been so damaged by a 10-year-long, U.S.-backed
offensive that they are ready for a negotiated peace.
Although the rebels have been pushed back into increasingly
remote areas, they have stepped up attacks in recent months on
oil and mining developments that are fueling fast-paced economic
growth in Colombia.
Since the last round, the FARC has added Pablo Catatumbo, a
member of its seven-member leadership group known as the
Secretariat, to its negotiating team in what some interpreted as
an attempt to shore up support for the talks within the
His presence also may enable the FARC negotiating team to
make quicker decisions, according to people involved in the
Catatumbo, whose real name is Jorge Torres Victoria, heads a
strong FARC unit in the south involved in frequent attacks and
clashes with the Colombian army. Speaking after Marquez, he told
reporters the rebels are "convinced that this process has the
resounding support of the majority who long for peace."
Cuba and Norway helped organize the talks following the
failure of three previous efforts at making peace, the last in
2002. Chile and Venezuela are also assisting.
Santos, who may run for president again next year, wants
the process wrapped up by November.
(Reporting By Jeff Franks and Rosa Tania Valdes; Editing by Tom
Brown and Philip Barbara)