BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – A permanent cease-fire is taking effect in Colombia on Monday, the latest step in bringing an end to 52 years of bloody combat between the government and the country's biggest rebel group.
The commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia announced Sunday that his fighters would cease hostilities beginning at 12:01 a.m. as a result of the peace accord the two sides reached at midweek.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos made a similar announcement Friday, saying the military would halt attacks on the FARC beginning Monday.
FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko, made his announcement in Havana, where rebel and government negotiators talked for four years to reach the deal on ending one of the world's longest-running conflicts.
"Never again will parents be burying their sons and daughters killed in the war," Londono said. "All rivalries and grudges will remain in the past."
Colombia is expected to hold a national referendum Oct. 2 to give voters the chance to approve the accord, which would end political violence that has claimed more than 220,000 lives and driven more than 5 million people from their homes over five decades. Polls say most Colombians loathe the rebel group but will likely endorse the deal anyway.
Top FARC commanders are planning to gather one final time in mid-September to ratify the deal.
Under the 297-page accord, FARC guerrillas are supposed to turn over their weapons within six months after the deal is formally signed. In return, the FARC's still unnamed future political movement will be given a minimum 10 congressional seats — five in the lower house, five in the Senate — for two legislative periods.
In addition, 16 lower house seats will be created for grassroots activists in rural areas traditionally neglected by the state and in which existing political parties will be banned from running candidates. Critics of the peace process contend that will further boost the rebels' post-conflict political power.
After 2026, both arrangements would end and the former rebels would have to demonstrate their political strength at the ballot box.
Not all hostilities are ending under the deal with the FARC. The much-smaller National Liberation Army remains active in Colombia, although it is pursuing its own peace deal with the government.