But the clock is ticking: Congressional elections are scheduled for March, and many opponents of the peace process are expected to be swept into office.
“Most sensible candidates will want to get elected on a peace ticket and will therefore want to implement the agreements,” Jaramillo said of a future peace accord. “That’s what the FARC need to understand.”
Then the presidential election comes in May, and Santos is expected to face adversaries who accuse him of being soft on the guerrillas.
People close to the negotiations say the FARC’s commanders, who hope to form a political party after the end of hostilities, are clear that it would be in their interest to reach an accord well before the elections.
“They themselves know that time is against them and that the wearing down of the government won’t benefit them,” said Enrique Santos, who is the president’s brother and served as an emissary to the FARC. “These factors are leading them to be more pragmatic.”
Indeed, on Tuesday one of the group’s commanders, Jorge Torres Victoria, better known by the alias Pablo Catatumbo, read a statement in Havana in which the group for the first time accepted partial responsibility for a conflict that has left 220,000 people dead over half a century.
“Without a doubt, there has also been cruelty and pain provoked by our forces,” he said.
The two sides are expected to soon begin negotiating how to respond to victims of the conflict while ensuring that there is justice for war crimes.
Next week, the country’s Constitutional Court rules on whether a legal framework set up to address the violence is legal. The framework, which would amend the constitution, has triggered criticism from human rights groups that say it would disregard victims’ rights and ensure impunity.
“It’s second-class kind of justice,” said Gustavo Gallon, director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, a rights group based in Bogota. “We’re talking of crimes such as homicides, assassinations, massacres, rapes, forced displacements of villagers.”
A highly regarded study of the violence recently found that the FARC is responsible for 576 attacks on towns in the last quarter century and 12,790 kidnappings from 1970 to 2010. The study by the state-supported group, the National Center for Historic Memory, also found that the FARC had killed 3,261 people between 1981 and 2012, nearly a third of them in massacres.
Still, FARC commanders say they do not expect to spend a day in jail.
Among those battering the government over the talks is the president’s cousin, Francisco Santos, a candidate for president in Uribe’s rightist movement.
“We agree about peace, but not a peace that gives legitimacy to a group that has done nothing but kill Colombians,” Santos said in a debate this week with other presidential hopefuls.