HAVANA (Reuters) - The Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels clashed on Monday over how to incorporate Latin America’s oldest guerrilla movement into the democratic process, as they began the latest round of peace talks in Havana.
The FARC reiterated its demand that Colombia’s 2014 general election be postponed a year in favor of a constituent assembly to chart the country’s political future.
The government has repeatedly rejected the proposal and insisted a peace agreement must be reached by the end of 2013.
Former vice president and lead government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle quickly dismissed the FARC proposal before Monday’s talks began.
“There are clear parameters for talks on this point (political participation) agreed upon last year by both sides,” he said. “That is what the government is willing to discuss and nothing more.”
In May, after six months of negotiations facilitated by Cuba and Norway, the two sides reached an historic agreement on agricultural reform that calls for developing rural areas and providing land to the people living there.
But they remain at loggerheads over the second item on their six-point agenda: turning the FARC from insurgents into political participants.
More than 100,000 people have died and millions have been displaced in fighting since FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was founded in 1964 as a communist agrarian reform movement.
The talks recess every few weeks, then resume, even as the conflict rages on.
Rebels blew up an oil pipeline and the government sentenced their leader and FARC’s chief negotiator to long prison terms on various charges during the most recent break in negotiations. The negotiator remains in Cuba with temporary immunity.
Other unresolved issues include the drug trade, compensation for victims and implementation of the final accord.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos initiated the peace talks last year in the belief that the FARC had been so weakened by the government’s 10-year, U.S.-backed offensive that its leaders were ready to end to the fighting.
Three previous peace attempts have failed. The rebels have been pushed into far corners of the country but can still attack oil and mining operations vital to Colombia’s economic growth
Reporting by Marc Frank; additional reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes; Editing by Doina Chiacu