Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia-Farc peace process to receive $450m in US aid

President Juan Manuel Santos and President Obama at the White House Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It was "an incredible moment of promise" for Colombia, Mr Obama said

President Barack Obama has said he will ask the US Congress for $450m (£309m) in aid to help Colombia implement a peace deal with the Farc rebel group.

The proposed funding will also support de-mining, humanitarian and counter-narcotics projects, he said.

The aid was announced after President Obama held talks at the White House with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos.

He told Mr Santos the US would be "your partner in waging peace".

It was "an incredible moment of promise" for ending the long-running conflict in Colombia, he said.

Image copyright EPA

Natalio Cosoy, BBC Colombia Correspondent

The new plan is called Peace Colombia, but the fact is that even if a final agreement to end 50 years of internal conflict with the Farc is achieved - which looks extremely likely - the negotiations with the second largest rebel group in the country, the ELN, seem stalled.

Although much smaller in size, with about 1,400 armed fighters, the ELN has shown it can still do damage.

They are still kidnapping civilians, capturing soldiers and killing members of the security forces in confrontations.

Although an agreement with the Farc would be an accomplishment that should not be underestimated, if the ELN do not follow suit Colombia can hardly yet speak of peace.

That is, unless the government launches such a strong offensive that they defeat the ELN militarily.

Mr Santos has said he expects his government to sign a peace deal with the Farc next month. Both sides have agreed a 23 March deadline to reach an agreement.

It comes after Farc rebels said they were willing to lay down their weapons after five decades of conflict.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Farc fighters like 20-year-old Juliana will rejoin civilian life if a peace deal is implemented

Peace negotiations were launched in Cuba in November 2012.

The post-conflict period "is more difficult than the process itself", said Mr Santos.

The Farc, which was founded in 1964, will give up its armed struggle and join the legal political process.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted to accept a request from the Farc and the Colombian government to appoint a mission to oversee the end of the conflict.

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Media captionColombia 'confident' of Farc peace deal, says president

"This is really a step that makes the process irreversible," Mr Santos told the BBC on Wednesday.

He added the rebels also agreed to "cut every link that they have with drug trafficking", as part of the accord.

"They recognise that they have financed themselves through drug trafficking, or taxing the drug traffickers. That's what they say.

"And they will in a way help us, especially in those remote areas, to convince the peasants to switch to legal crops," he said.

Colombia is the world's top producer of cocaine.

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