Colombian ex President Betancur, who sought peace with rebels, dies

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© Reuters. Colombia's former president Belisario Betancurt speaks to the media beside Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim during a news conference after attending the annual meeting of the Circulo de Montevideo Foundation, in Mexico City© Reuters. Colombia’s former president Belisario Betancurt speaks to the media beside Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim during a news conference after attending the annual meeting of the Circulo de Montevideo Foundation, in Mexico City

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Former Colombian President Belisario Betancur, who attempted to broker peace with leftist rebels during his administration, died on Friday at the age of 95, the Fundacion Santa Fe de Bogota hospital said.

The hospital did not provide a cause of death, but media reports said he had been admitted with kidney problems.

Betancur, a member of the Conservative party who served from 1982 to 1986 – one of Colombia’s bloodiest periods – had sought a negotiated peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and M-19 rebels.

Talks with M-19 ended abruptly in November 1985, when the rebel group stormed the Supreme Court and took hundreds of hostages, including the justices. About 100 people died in the siege when the military raided the building, 12 of whom were magistrates

“I deeply regret the death of a great friend, a great Colombian, former President Belisario Betancur. His legacy in politics, in our history, in culture is an example for all future generations. Our condolences to your family and friends,” President Ivan Duque said on Twitter.

Peace with the FARC was finally agreed in late 2016, while the M-19 demobilized in 1990. The ELN is still an active guerrilla army.

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