After 50 years of war–the longest in the Western Hemisphere, the New York Times notes–the Colombian government and representatives from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) sat down in Hurdal, Norway, to seriously try to talk things out.The rebel group is a big reason many people associate white powder with the South American country, as they’re one of the United States’ main suppliers of cocaine. FARC also makes money by kidnapping, extortion, and illegal gold mining, according to The Guardian.
One of the rebel negotiators, Ricardo Téllez, said his group actually “detests” drug trafficking, and that they simply charge actual traffickers a tax when they visit FARC’s territory, the Cauca region where much coca, the plant cocaine comes from, is grown.
They also say they gave up kidnapping in February, to get the talks started. At least 400 families are still missing loved ones, although FARC says a sweep of their territory didn’t uncover anyone, Colombia Reports said in September.
The two sides have tried to work things out before, and each side is accused of playing dirty at times. In the 80s, for example, FARC agreed to a cease-fire and formed a political party called Patriotic Union. Right-wing paramilitary groups then killed most of party’s members and leaders.
Later on, when then-president Andrés Pastrana gave the rebels a Switzerland-sized area of land, they went ahead and planted cocaine and trained troops.
In the past few years, with money legally acquired from the US, Colombia’s military has gotten much stronger and better-equipped. At the same time, FARC’s numbers have dwindled from 17,000 to 9,000. But they’ve still been pretty active, with one of their missiles landing in a clinic in July.
If the rebels do lay down their weapons, the next round of peace talks are scheduled to take place in Cuba in November.
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