Updated 01:24 AM EST, Sun, Feb 28, 2021

Colombia FARC Peace Deal: First Rebel Soldiers Freed During Negotiations

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Colombia freed the first batch of FARC guerillas pardoned during the course of ceasefire between the government and the rebels on Thursday.

According to a report from AFP cited by the Tico Times, 16 out of the 30 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) soldiers who were pardoned by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on November 22 have been liberated as a goodwill gesture from the government.

Back in July, the FARC rebels initiated a unilateral ceasefire.

"This is a first, unilateral gesture by the government after evaluating the observance of the FARC's unilateral ceasefire and the resulting reduction in violence and advances in the (peace) process," a statement from the Colombian government's high commissioner for peace explained.

While they welcomed the gesture from their long-time adversary, the FARC leadership is still unsatisfied. They reiterated their hopes for the government to release more of their members, particularly those who have health problems.

In fact, even those who have been liberated have the same opinion, according to Yahoo News.

"We still can't break into applause, because our comrades are still in prison," freed FARC rebel Sandra Patricia Isaza told the press.

Despite this, the Colombian government is still proud of the development, with analysts considering it the key to the "trust-building" process between the two sides.

"For the first time, we will see the FARC acting in society. We will see who they are, what they're going to do and whether they will participate in politics," Jorge Restrepo, a political analyst, explained to AFP.

The end of the negotiations is set to come to its final stretch. Both sides decided to sign a final peace accord on March 23.

However, FARC warned that there may be more "substantial hurdles" coming as they tackle six issues including land reform, justice for war victims, the ex-rebels political participation after being liberated and the continuous bout against drug trafficking in the world's biggest cocaine-producing country.

The rebels also presented another issue that involves right-wing paramilitary groups, who they believe are still assassinating FARC members and leftist leaders. This comes even after they were officially disbanded during the peace talks.

Because of this, negotiators from both the government and the largest guerilla group in Colombia, requested for United Nations to initiate an unarmed observer mission to oversee the development of the peace talks.

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