Havana - Colombia's FARC guerrilla movement said Friday it would not observe a ceasefire during legislative elections next month unless the government also agreed to a truce.
President Juan Manuel Santos has repeatedly rejected rebel calls for a bilateral ceasefire, arguing that the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) would use it to regroup.
The rebels, who have been in peace talks with the government since November 2012, have twice observed self-imposed ceasefires, most recently during the year-end holidays.
Colombian politicians have urged the FARC to halt combat operations through both the March 9 legislative elections and presidential elections May 25.
But Andres Paris, a FARC delegate to the talks in Havana, said there were no plans for a unilateral ceasefire during the March 9
“We are ready to institute a bilateral ceasefire,” he said.
The legislative elections will be an important test for Santos, who is seeking a second term in the subsequent presidential polls.
Among those running for the Senate next month is conservative former president Alvaro Uribe, a vehement opponent of the peace process who considers Santos' pursuit of a pact with the FARC a “betrayal.”
Santos served as Uribe's defense minister during a 2002-2010
presidency that dealt major military setbacks to the FARC.
Santos believes the military successes created conditions for a negotiated peace in the 50-year-old conflict, while Uribe contends it has given the FARC a political platform.
Signs of division within the military also appeared this week with revelations that an army intelligence unit allegedly has been eavesdropping on the communications of the government's negotiating team.
Santos has ordered an internal investigation by the defense ministry, while the Colombian attorney general's office is conducting a separate probe.
Alluding to the disclosure, Paris told reporters here “the real threat in this election campaign are the scandals we have been pointing out,” referring to the eavesdropping allegations.