Colombia rebels demand rural demilitarization, reparations

Leftist FARC rebels on Tuesday pressed for a "demilitarization" of the Colombian state and reparations for the rural poor, during the latest session of peace talks in Cuba.

The Colombian government needs to advance "demilitarization in rural areas, in society, and of the state, which would mean abandoning the 'national security' model imposed by the Pentagon," said rebel commander Ivan Marquez, who heads the FARC delegation at the talks.

FARC's second-in-command, Marquez also called for the creation of a fund that would make "reparations of the historic debt" owed by society to Colombia's peasants.

There has been little visible sign of progress in the negotiations, which have been underway since November. But Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos expressed optimism Monday that an accord could be reached by year's end.

"It is a peace process that the entire world is eagerly waiting for," said Santos, noting the "show of support" from numerous countries around the world.

"That is why we are optimistic that if we keep on as we have, we will succeed in achieving peace in this country before the end of the year -- God willing," he said.

The talks are the first attempt in more than a decade to reach a negotiated truce between the Colombian government and the FARC, Latin American's largest insurgency, in their half century old conflict. Three previous attempts have failed.