Colombia ceasefire will not stop government fighting crime: Official

The historic ceasefire between Colombia`s government and the FARC rebel group will not end the government`s commitment to fighting crime, the country`s defense minister said Friday.

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 27, 2016, 05:02 AM IST

Bogota: The historic ceasefire between Colombia`s government and the FARC rebel group will not end the government`s commitment to fighting crime, the country`s defense minister said Friday.

"We are in a ceasefire (with the FARC), but will not cease persecuting crime," Luis Carlos Villegas said.

Soldiers and police would continue to combat kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal mining and human trafficking even after the ceasefire officially begins Monday, he added.

"We hope that this component of the ceasefire with the FARC, concerning criminal activity, will be fully implemented," he said.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ordered a definitive ceasefire with the Marxist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Thursday after the two sides reached a landmark deal to end their half-century conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee their homes.

That announcement came after negotiators from the government and the FARC presented the 297-page peace accord Wednesday, after nearly four years of arduous negotiations in Cuba.

The fate of the accord now comes down to a decisive yes-or-no vote on October 2.

Santos, who has staked his legacy on the peace process, faces a tough political battle to win the referendum.

The president`s top rival, former president Alvaro Uribe, who is leading the "No" campaign, argues his successor has given away too much to the FARC.

Uribe said on Friday that the peace accord will "make the FARC a paramilitary group, a partner of the state to fight other criminals."

Crime groups emerged from right-wing paramilitary death squads disbanded during the 2002-2010 Uribe presidency.

The defense minister also indicated Friday that 16,500 soldiers and police would be available to help carry out the peace agreement. The forces will support security efforts as FARC rebels move from their jungle and mountain hideouts into disarmament camps set up by the United Nations, which is helping monitor the ceasefire.

The FARC will then become a political party, and special courts will be created to judge crimes committed during the conflict.