On Wednesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the resumed bombing of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) after an early morning attack by the rebel group killed at least 10 soldiers and left 17 injured. In the deadliest clash since the FARC announced a unilateral cease fire nearly four months ago, guerillas ambushed the soldiers with grenades and firearms in the rural southwestern province of Cauca.
In a televised press conference, Santos described the attack as “deliberate” and said it “implies a clear rupture of the promise of a unilateral ceasefire.” Santos’ order to resume bombing suspends the truce he made in March in response to the FARC’s adherence to its cease fire.
The killing of the soldiers is a significant setback to the ongoing peace talks between the government and the FARC that, after more than two years, seemed to be making conclusive progress. Since the FARC’s December announcement of a unilateral cease fire and Santos’ subsequent ban on air raids on FARC camps, the FARC had agreed to end its recruitment of child soldiers and the two groups recently agreed to work together on a historic landmine removal project. The group had also reached agreements with the government on land reform, political participation of ex-rebels, and joint cooperation against drug trafficking.
FARC leader Jorge Torres Victoria (alias “Pablo Catatumbo”) told Reuters that the attack was not premeditated, and FARC negotiator Felix Antonio Muñoz Lascarro (alias “Pastor Alape”) told reporters that the confrontation “seems to be caused by the incoherence on the part of the government—ordering military operations against a rebel force in ceasefire.”
The Economist reports that the attack is unlikely to ruin the peace progress. Santos did not suspend negotiations, as he did after the FARC kidnapped a general in November. Rather, the president described the attack as proof of the necessity of continued talks. “Acts of this nature and seriousness demonstrate once more the need to accelerate the negotiations to put an end to this conflict,” Santos told reporters.