BOGOTA — Colombia’s FARC guerrillas will disarm in 20 days, rather than this week as originally planned, with guerrillas returning to civil life in 60 days, President Juan Manuel Santos said Monday.
Santos insisted that the delay "does not impact in any way the government and the FARC’s firm decision and clear commitment to the (peace) accord" signed in November.
The weapons deadline was originally set for Tuesday. Santos explained that it was pushed back due to repeated delays, and that the move was completed in co-ordination with the United Nations and the FARC.
Santos said that demobilisation zones would be prolonged by two months, until August 1.
Some 7,000 FARC fighters are assembling at 26 such points in Colombia as they disarm and prepare to transform into a political group under the peace deal.
"This additional time will allow us to finalise a reintegration process for FARC members to a civilian life free of weapons," Santos said.
The president stressed that peace is "irreversible" and that since the agreement was finalised, "there has not been a single confrontation between law enforcement forces and FARC members."
His government launched peace talks with the country’s smaller guerrilla group, the ELN, earlier this year.
The government and the FARC, formally known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the country’s biggest rebel group, reached a deal after four years of negotiations in the Cuban capital.
Voters rejected it by a narrow margin in a referendum last October.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders then drafted a new version of the accord and the government pushed it through Congress despite resistance from critics.
The Colombian conflict erupted in 1964 when the FARC and the ELN took up arms for rural land rights.
It drew in various rebel and paramilitary forces and drug gangs as well as state forces.
The conflict has left at least 260,000 people dead and displaced more than seven million, according to the authorities. — AFP