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Warring Rebel Factions Agree To Ceasefire During Pope’s Visit

REUTERS/Tony Gentile

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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Colombia’s government and the country’s largest remaining rebel faction signed a temporary ceasefire Tuesday in anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit to the embattled country.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed the ceasefire alongside representatives of the rebel National Liberation Army (the ELN). The temporary truce will take effect Oct. 1 and remain until January 2018, at which point the factions will decide whether or not to renew it, the BBC reported. Francis, who is visiting the country Wednesday, called for peace and reconciliation in a Tuesday video message to the South American country’s 48 million citizens. Colombia has endured a drawn-out civil war since 1964.

“Peace is what Colombia has sought after for a long time, and she is working to achieve it: A stable and lasting peace, so that we see and treat each other as brothers and not as enemies,” Francis said in his address. “Peace reminds us that we are all children of the same Father, who loves and consoles us.”

ELN, founded in part by radical Roman Catholic priests, promised to cease kidnappings, recruitment of minors, and attacks on infrastructure for the duration of the truce. ELN controls roughly 1,500 fighters and has financed its conflict through kidnapping ransoms and drug trafficking.

ELN’s truce comes nearly a year after Colombia’s largest rebel faction, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) signed peace accords with the government in November 2016. With FARC finalizing its disarmament last month, the conflict transfers to the political arena.

FARC announced its rebranding into a political party last week. The organization is now called the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, which preserves the FARC acronym in Spanish but does away with militaristic tones.

The 53-year civil war claimed the lives of more than 220,000 Colombians, according to CNN.

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