PRESIDENT Juan Manuel Santos has ordered an immediate halt on Colombian government air raids against Farc jungle camps in his most decisive step toward ending hostilities.
He told a TV audience on Tuesday night that he had made the decision following progress in negotiations in Cuba and in light of the guerilla liberation army’s consistent adherence to a ceasefire declared unilaterally in December.
The bombing embargo will initially last a month but could be extended if Farc continues its cessation of armed activity.
But the president insisted that air raids against the smaller National Liberation Army would continue until it pledged to join the peace process.
Three members of the Farc ruling secretariat have been killed since 2008 in surprise jungle raids involving smart bombs.
Mr Santos’s opponents, grouped around former president Alvaro Uribe, criticised the bombing respite, claiming that it would demoralise government troops and give valuable breathing space to the rebels.
But the president urged them to make their criticisms heard in a non-partisan commission he was establishing to advise him on how to proceed in the final, delicate stage of talks.
“I want to hear a lot of voices to help me make the right decision,” he said.
The government and Farc have already concluded agreements on land reform, participation in politics for ex-guerillas and a joint strategy to curb drug trafficking.
They announced a joint effort to remove unexploded landmines in the latest round of talks that ended last Saturday.