* Government says speed needed to maintain support for talks
* Rebels blame government for slow pace, offer proposals
* Three previous peace attempts failed
By Jeff Franks and Rosa Tania Valdés
HAVANA, Jan 14 Representatives of the Colombian
government and Marxist-led FARC rebels reconvened in Havana on
Monday for a third round of peace talks that the government says
need to start moving faster.
The two sides began negotiating an end to their bloody,
half-century-old conflict on Nov. 19, but so far have only
agreed on procedural issues and are returning from a three-week
break over the holidays.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says he wants the
process wrapped up by next November, but the rebels have said
reaching a peace accord cannot be rushed.
They are trying to end a conflict that began in 1964 with
the founding of the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia, and in which tens of thousands of people have died and
millions more have been displaced.
Upon arrival at the talks on Monday, lead government
negotiator Humberto de la Calle called for more speed, saying
the talks must move ahead at a "new pace" to maintain the
support of the Colombian people.
"The important thing is that during these rounds the pace
changes, that we enter with new energy this year so that here in
Havana we reach agreement rapidly," he told reporters outside
the convention center where the negotiations are being held.
"The people want to see an efficient, dignified, rapid (and)
serious process," said de la Calle, a former vice president of
With Norway and Cuba acting as guarantors, the government
and FARC are following an agenda addressing the basic issues of
the conflict, among them rural development, the FARC's
involvement in the illicit drug trade, the political and legal
future of the group and restitution for the war's victims.
They began with rural development and remain on that topic.
The FARC, founded as a communist agrarian movement to fight
Colombia's long history of social inequality and concentration
of land ownership, accused the government of slowing the talks
by not offering firm proposals necessary to end the conflict.
The government delegation, it said in a communique, "must
demonstrate will to advance, putting on the table clear
proposals that indicate to the country the government will not
prolong indefinitely the solutions" to the problems.
It issued a 10-point proposal for rural development that
included its traditional demands for land reform and aid for the
rural poor, limits to foreign use of land and respect for the
environment and indigenous peoples.
"Instead of a lot of rhetoric, we are starting with concrete
proposals to discuss," said lead rebel negotiator Ivan Marquez.
"We want to arrive quickly at an understanding."
In a joint communique at the end of the last round on Dec.
21, the two sides said the talks were being held "in an
atmosphere of respect and constructive spirit," but in separate
comments it was clear that major differences must be overcome.
De la Calle said then that Colombia's political system and
economic model were not being negotiated, but Marquez responded
that achieving peace "without a doubt requires changes to the
model of society and the anti-democratic political system that
in the end is responsible for shameful inequality and exclusion
that characterize the Colombian regime."
Marquez said last week that the FARC would end on Jan. 20 a
two-month unilateral ceasefire it declared at the start of the
talks unless the government agreed to do the same, which it has
said it will not do.
Despite the ceasefire, attacks by both sides have continued
and Colombian officials say the rebels may be planning a new
Three previous peace attempts have failed, but President
Santos is betting that a decade-long, U.S.-backed offensive has
weakened the rebels enough that they will want to end the
fighting on the best possible terms.
If peace is not achieved, the FARC still has around 9,000
troops that can continue to inflict damage on Latin America's