HAVANA, Cuba – Joaquín Gómez, head of the Southern Bloc of the FARC and a member of the rebel group’s Secretariat, arrived in Havana Sunday to join ongoing peace negotiations between the rebel group and the government of Colombia, according to the FARC.
According to the guerrilla organization’s peace delegation, the presence of Gómez in Cuba represents “a new gesture of peace from the FARC, expressing our determination to advance toward the signature of the final agreement that will establish a foundation for the Colombia of the future.”
The government of Colombia confirmed Gómez’s trip to Cuba in a statement asserting that his departure from Colombia “was carried out according to established protocol and with the express authorization of the President of the Republic.”
Founded in 1964, the FARC today counts about 8,000 fighters and is the largest of the guerrilla groups waging Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict, which has left 220,000 people dead and 5.3 million displaced, according to official figures.
The FARC has been in dialogue with Colombian government negotiators attempting to broker a peace deal to end the five-decade-long fight.
Gómez joins Pastor Alape and Carlos Lozada, FARC leaders who joined the peace negotiations in late October. In total, five of the seven FARC Secretariat members are now in Havana. Achievements of the negotiations have included agreements on issues of rural reform, political participation and illegal drugs.