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Colombia announces cease-fire with a group that split off from the FARC rebels

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia’s government and one of the nation's last remaining rebel groups announced Tuesday that they will start peace talks next month, and enter a 10-month cease-fire that is expected to decrease violence against civilians.

The agreement between the Colombian government and the rebel group known as FARC-EMC comes as President Gustavo Petro tries to bolster his plans to pacify rural areas of Colombia by negotiating simultaneously with all of the nation’s remaining rebel factions, under his “total peace” strategy.

In August the Petro administration brokered a six-month cease-fire with the National Liberation Army, the nation’s largest remaining rebel group, and also set up a committee that will decide how community groups will participate in peace talks with that group.

The FARC-EMC are a splinter group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The splinter group refused to join a 2016 peace deal between the main FARC group and the government, in which more than 12,000 fighters laid down their guns.

The group is believed to have around 3,000 fighters and has recently been active in southwest Colombia, as well as in the provinces of Arauca and North Santander, on the nation’s eastern border with Venezuela.

Talks between the government and FARC-EMC will begin on Oct. 8 in Tibu, a municipality on Colombia's eastern border that has long been affected by fighting between the government, drug cartels, and rebel groups.

FARC-EMC negotiators said Tuesday that their group will not interfere in municipal elections that will be held across the country at the end of October, and invited citizens in areas under the group’s influence to participate “freely” in the vote.

The government and the rebel group also issued a joint statement which said that the peace talks will seek to “dignify” the living conditions of Colombians who have “been victims social inequalities and armed confrontation.”

This will be the second cease-fire between the government and the FARC-EMC in less than a year. A previous ceasefire began in December of last year, but broke down in May after the rebel group executed four indigenous teenagers who had escaped from one of the group’s camps in southern Colombia, after they were forcibly recruited.

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