Colombia and the National Liberation Army rebels extend cease-fire for a week as talks continue

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia's government and the nation’s largest remaining rebel group announced Monday they will extend their current cease-fire by one week, while delegates from both sides who are meeting in Cuba continue to discuss policies that could secure a longer lasting truce.

In a joint statement, the government and the National Liberation Army said they will abide by the conditions of the current cease-fire, which began in August and was set to expire Monday night.

The current cease-fire agreement says that both sides will not attack each other, and that one of the goals of the cease-fire is to “improve the humanitarian situation” of communities affected by fighting.

However, there are no provisions in the current cease-fire that stop the rebels from kidnapping civilians for ransom or from recruiting minors, two practices that have continued to take place in the last months.

The rebels meanwhile have complained that during the current cease-fire, the military has launched operations in areas under their control.

In Monday’s joint statement, both sides said they will continue to discuss ways to “strengthen” the cease-fire.

Colombia’s government has been pressing the rebels to stop kidnappings. But the group has asked the government for alternate ways to finance their operations, and have said that they will only stop kidnappings as part of a new cease-fire agreement.

In October, the cease-fire between the government and the ELN entered a critical moment when a group of rebels kidnapped the parents of Luis Diaz, one of Colombia’s most famous soccer players. Diaz’s mother was quickly rescued by police. While his father was released 12 days later, after numerous protests and mediation efforts.