Colombia's FARC guerrillas have announced a "pause" in the peace talks they have been holding here with the government in Bogota, saying Friday they would use the intermission to analyze President Juan Manuel Santos's proposal that any eventual accord be submitted to a referendum.
Pablo Catatumbo, chief negotiator of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the peace talks, which began last November, read a statement to reporters in the Cuban capital announcing the temporary suspension of dialogue with Santos's government.
The 13th round of the talks - focusing on the issue of the rebels' eventual political participation - kicked off this week.
The guerrillas will use the "pause" to analyze the scope of the government's referendum proposal, according to the statement.
"We'll also use this time to hear the opinions that surely must spring forth from the people amid the zeal of the sociopolitical struggle now rocking Colombia," the guerrillas said, referring to nationwide protests by truckers, farmers and other groups against the government's economic policies.
Santos's administration and the leaders of the parties in Colombia's ruling coalition submitted a bill to Congress Thursday proposing a referendum on an eventual peace accord be held on the same day as next year's May 25 presidential election in the Andean nation.
"The peace process is advancing. The talks in Havana are advancing. And we have the responsibility, the obligation, of foreseeing any procedure necessary if the accords are formalized," Santos said in presenting the bill.
The government "informed the country of its decision to resort to a referendum as a ratification mechanism," without making any mention whatsoever of procedures for the democratic construction of the accord previously set forth by the guerrillas, the FARC said Friday.
The guerrillas said their own long-standing proposal for a national constituent assembly to determine different aspects of the agreement was the road to achieving a "just and binding" peace deal.