Colombian government, rebels open peace talks in Cuba
The Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas Monday launched the second phase of their peace talks here.
The start of the meeting was preceded by the announcement by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, of a unilateral cease fire lasting from Nov 20 until Jan 20, 2013.
The negotiating team for the government of Juan Manuel Santos, which is headed by former vice president Humberto de la Calla, was the first to arrive at the Convention Palace in Havana.
Half an hour later the FARC negotiators, led by rebel No. 2, Ivan Marquez, arrived.
One of the members of the rebel delegation was carrying a life-size cardboard silhouette of Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera, alias "Simon Trinidad", another of the negotiators designated by the FARC but who is in prison in the US.
Cuba and Norway are acting as guarantors of the dialogue, and Chile and Venezuela are support countries.
More than 120 journalists from 16 countries gathered Monday at the Convention Palace entrance to cover the arrival of the delegations.
The FARC has battled a succession of Colombian governments since 1964. The Marxist insurgency swelled to nearly 20,000 fighters in the early 2000s, but now numbers around 8,500 combatants.
Colombia's armed forces, bolstered by billions of dollars of aid from the US, have scored dramatic successes against the FARC in recent years, but the rebels remain capable of inflicting significant damage on the military and on vulnerable infrastructure.