Colombia, FARC rebels to sign ceasefire agreement Thursday

Colombian spokeswoman Marcela Duran and the FARC's Marcos Calarca speak Wednesday in Havana.

Story highlights

  • Ceasefire would end five decades of civil war before final peace deal reached
  • FARC has battled Colombian government in insurgency modeled after Cuban revolution

Havana, Cuba (CNN)Colombia's government and FARC rebels announced a ceasefire agreement Wednesday that would end five decades of bloody conflict while negotiators reach a final peace deal.

Colombian officials made the announcement in Havana, where the two sides have been negotiating since November 2012 to end the civil war that has killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
    The ceasefire agreement will be signed Thursday in the Cuban capital by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez, top commander for the FARC, the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, according to a statement from the Colombian government.
    Presidents Raul Castro of Cuba, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Michelle Bachelet of Chile and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend the ceremony, the statement said.
    The longest-running insurgency in the Western Hemisphere, the FARC sought to emulate the Cuban revolution and install a Marxist-style government in Colombia. Critics accuse the rebels of engaging in drug trafficking and kidnapping to finance their guerrilla war.
    Billions of dollars in U.S. counterinsurgency aid has helped the Colombian government turn the tide against the FARC, which suffered as top commanders were killed and thousands of foot soldiers abandoned the insurgency.
    At the beginning of peace talks, FARC rebels proposed a bilateral ceasefire, but Colombian government officials resisted the overture, saying the guerrillas had used previous ceasefires as an opportunity to take over large swaths of the countryside.
    Santos said Monday that he expected the final peace deal to be reached by July 20. A referendum then would be called for Colombians to vote on whether to accept or reject the agreement.