On April 15, in Cauca province in the southwest of Colombia, FARC rebels ambushed a patrol of Colombian soldiers with explosives, grenades, and small arms, killing 10. Little detail on the exact events on the ground has been forthcoming in open sources, except that the patrol was attacked in the hamlet of La Esperanza, and afterward, a single body was found wearing black and carrying a rifle—tentatively identified as one of the FARC guerrillas.
FARC, the Fuerzas Armas Revolucionaria de Colombia, the Marxist guerrilla group that has been fighting the Columbian government since 1964, has in recent years turned a great deal toward the drug trade to finance itself. They’ve also been in peace talks with the Colombian government since November, 2012. The talks are being held in Havana, Cuba. It was in Havana that the FARC spokesman, Félix Antonio Muñoz, alias ‘Pastor Alape,’ announced that the attack was a “defensive action” undertaken by the rebels, and that it underscores the need for a bilateral ceasefire. FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire in December 2014.
The government has denied that there was anything “defensive” about the fight that killed 10 Columbian soldiers and wounded 20 more. In response to the attack, President Juan Manuel Santos has declared an end to the bombing ceasefire that has been in place since March. “I have ordered the armed forces to ignore the order suspending bombings of FARC camps until further notice,” Santos said. “Let this be clear to the FARC: I’m not going to be pressured by vile acts like this to make a decision on a bilateral ceasefire.” Santos, a former journalist, has still refused to call off the peace talks, but on April 17, he finally declared the need for a deadline, saying that if FARC wants peace, “They must demonstrate with deeds, not words.”
This is not the first time the FARC has used hostile actions to call for a bilateral ceasefire. In November, 2014, the FARC kidnapped General Ruben Dario Alzate in the village of Las Mercedes, Choco province, as he was traveling along the Atrato river by boat. They claimed he was taken because he was “military personnel moving through a war zone,” and immediately declared that it illustrated the need for a ceasefire. Santos suspended the peace talks after the kidnapping, though they resumed shortly thereafter.