rebels-copyAn historically secretive governmental assembly has been opened to civilians to discuss a five-point accord with representatives from units of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – rebels that have fought with the government and Columbia’s citizenry for more than 52 years. The meeting is the beginning of a peace accord designed to give the FARC a political voice, and end a half century of guerilla warfare.

A Colombian leader says the peace deal hinges on people’s ability to forgive. President, Juan Manual Santos said in an interview,

 “Making peace is much more difficult than making war because you need to change the sentiments of people, people who have suffered, to try to persuade them to forgive.”

Colombians are expected to vote on an agreement between Santos’ government and the FARC in a few weeks. The agreement would end one of the last major guerrilla struggles in Latin America that has displaced more than five million people and cost some  220,000 lives. The agreement sets a timetable for the FARC to lay down arms, and sets a path for them to rejoin society, sometimes even as civil servants.

If the public agrees to the peace deal, FARC members will spend no time in prison and will be awarded with political representation, according to Maria Emma Wills, a political analyst for the National Center for Historical Memory, a government research group.

Just a short time ago, military might was still used to subdue rebels who wanted to overthrow the government and install a Marxist regime. All previous peace talks with the government had failed.

The public is leery, but hundreds of FARC rebels have been picking up shovels to build dirt roads and pour cement on a camp in Southern Colombia where the delegates will meet to hopefully ratify a peace deal that will alter the country’s history of war.

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