Colombia FARC rebels stop levying ‘tax’ in peace drive


BOGOTA: Colombia’s FARC rebel force says it has halted recruiting fighters and demanding money from civilians as it works towards a historic peace deal with the government.

“Three months ago we stopped recruiting men and women to the ranks of the FARC,” the force’s leader Timoleon Jimenez was quoted as saying by the Colombian news agency Prensa Rural.

“I have also just given the order to the entire FARC command to suspend levying taxes on all legal economic activity in the regions,” he added in the interview, published late Monday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been in a bloody territorial conflict with the Colombian state for 52 years.

They have sustained their troops by levying taxes on farmers and companies in regions under their control, Jimenez said in the interview.

Last month, the two sides signed a definitive ceasefire and FARC disarmament agreement, a key step towards a full peace deal.

“We believe it will not be long now… we will manage to complete the accord,” Jimenez said.

The Colombian conflict started in the 1960s as a rural uprising for land rights that spawned the communist FARC.

The fighting has drawn in various leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs over the decades.

It has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million displaced, according to official figures.

UN observers arrived in Colombia last week to monitor the demobilization of the FARC’s estimated 7,000 guerillas and recover their weapons.