Colombian FARC rebels ask Miss Universe to attend their peace talks

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COLUMBIA — Colombian beauty queen Paulina Vega may soon have a new role: peace negotiator.

The newly-crowned Miss Universe got an invitation Saturday from Colombia’s leftist FARC rebels to attend their peace talks with the government.

Rebels took her up on an offer she’s made in the past that she’s willing to attend the negotiations in Cuba.

“We have read with interest about your desire to contribute your services to achieve peace and reconciliation between Colombians,” FARC said in a statement on its website.

“We salute your willingness to travel to Havana at the same time that we invite you to make the trip to exhibit the development of the process of talks.”

Vega, 22, a business administration major at a Bogota university, was crowned Miss Universe in Miami last month. Though the native of Barranquilla has not responded to the offer, the rebels emphasized that her input is important.

“Rest assured that there is complete willingness to respond to your concerns and to value your opinions as a valuable contribution to peace,” the statement said.

The talks are crucial to helping end 50 years of fighting between FARC and the government. Negotiations between the two sides have stalled several times over the years, and the group has been accused of bombings, murder, extortion and kidnappings.

FARC started as an insurgency in 1964 and continues to champion leftist causes. But with Colombia being one of the world’s top cocaine producers, the rebels have added drug trafficking to their list of atrocities.

The group is estimated to make $500 million from the illicit trade per year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The United States and the European Union consider FARC a terrorist organization.

CNN’s Miguel Escalona contributed to this report

By Faith Karimi and Catherine E. Shoichet

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