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Colombians welcome the 'last day' of 50 years of war

President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londoño, the highest profile leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are due to sign a “definitive ceasefire” in Havana on Thursday.

by Joe Parkin Daniels
Jun 22 2016, 10:23pm

Photo par Desmond Boylan/AP Images

Though still not the final peace deal, Colombians greeted Wednesday's announcement that the government and the country's biggest rebel group have agreed a "definitive ceasefire" as tantamount to the end of the region's longest-running conflict.

The announcement — made in a statement from Havana where the peace negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are based — set the hashtag #ElUltimoDiaDeLaGuerra, or #TheLastDayOfTheWar trending in Colombia within minutes.

But though largely positive, many Colombians have also qualified their welcome to the imminent end of 52 years of a bitter and bloody struggle that has also involved state-backed right-wing paramilitaries.

"Close to 7 million displaced, thousands dead and mutilated," said one popular tweet. "How can you not be happy at the end of the war?"

President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londoño, the FARC's highest profile leader who is known as Timochenko, are due to sign the ceasefire agreement in Cuba on Thursday. Cuba's President Raúl Castro will be there, as well as Chile's president, Michele Bachelet, and Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also expected.

Meanwhile, big screens are going up in one of the central squares in Bogotá, the Colombian capital, so locals can see Thursday's ceremony unfold.

"It's a brick in a wall," said engineer Paola Beltrán of the announcement that has received blanket, and enthusiastic, coverage in local media. "The peace process isn't perfect but it's a step forward."

The government and the FARC began peace talks in 2012 and have appeared on the point of sealing the deal since the end of last year, though problems pinning down the final details have kept pushing the deadlines back.

Not everybody, however, considers that signatures on pieces of paper will make any real difference on the ground.

"I don't trust the rebels," said emerald salesman Édgar Rocha. "And the government is full of bandits too."

Shop owner César Rodríguez went further. "We don't care what papers get signed in Havana," he said. "This is just a show for everybody abroad. Not much is going to change in Colombia."

Related: This Former Colombian Child Soldier Was Forced to Kill Eight of His Friends

Follow Joe Parkin Daniels on Twitter: @joeparkdan

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