Colombia's government announced Sunday it is granting pardons to 30 jailed members of FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, as a confidence-building measure in its peace talks with the leftist guerrilla group.
The Colombian presidency said none of those being pardoned were in prison for serious crimes and added that they will be helped in finding jobs and receiving social support once they leave prison.
In the past week, FARC spokesmen have told local media that some 850 jailed members of the guerrilla group have been on a hunger strike in 13 prisons since Nov. 9 to press, a protest aimed at winning humanitarian releases and improved prison conditions.
Besides the pardons, the government said teams of health workers would be checking the physical condition of 106 other imprisoned FARC rebels and would prepare special holding facilities for other FARC inmates with an eye to preparing them for re-integration into civilian life.
The measures come as government and rebel negotiators close in on a peace agreement after three years of talks in Havana aimed at ending the 50-year-old conflict, Latin America's longest.
The sides have said they hope to reach an agreement in less than six months on the remaining issues, including compensation for victims, laying down of arms and a mechanism for ratifying a comprehensive peace agreement.
"As part of the confidence-building gestures between the national government and the FARC, the national government has decided, based on its constitutional and legal authorities, to grant pardons ... to 30 guerrillas," the presidential statement said.