Colombia’s FARC rebel guerrillas will enter politics and seek alliances with other parties after it signs a peace deal with the government, its secretive leader said, despite rebel fears they may be targeted by right-wing armed groups..
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, have been in talks since late 2012 with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos to end five decades of war.
“We will be in politics without arms,” FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño , known by his nom de guerre “Timochenko” or “Timoleón Jiménez,” said in an exceptionally rare interview with local magazine Semana. He rarely gives interviews to the press.
“We will enter a political scenario where it will be fundamental to unite the largest number of forces possible to guarantee the deal is fulfilled. We will put our arms to one side and take up the political struggle,” he added.
Londoño said he expected “99 percent of all guerrillas” in his group will abandon their arms once peace accord is signed with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos.
Timochenko’s statement is in response to warnings by some political experts in the country that hundreds of the 7,000 guerrillas who belong to the rebel group may have become so dependent on the cultivation of coca for their income that they won’t want to give up it or their weapons.
Negotiators at the Cuba-based talks have reached deals on land reform, an end to illegal drug-trafficking, guerrilla participation in politics, transitional justice, efforts to find missing persons and remove land mines.
A United Nations mission will supervise rebel disarmament once an accord is signed. The war has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions, over a period lasting half a century.
Although rebel ranks support the peace talks, many fear they may be targeted by right-wing groups after a peace deal, Londoño said.
Paramilitaries, sometimes with the aid of military officials, systematically assassinated 5,000 members of the left-wing Patriotic Union party in the 1980s, including two presidential candidates.
“A common question is: ‘Comrade, will the same that happened to the Patriotic Union happen to us?’ That is the fear,” said Londoño.
The FARC’s political party could participate in 2018 legislative and presidential elections, he said.
All sectors of Colombian society, including fierce opponents like ex-president Álvaro Uribe, must commit to helping implement a peace deal, Londoño said, adding: “Let’s give Colombia a chance.”
The US special envoy “was honest as he said ‘I've come here to defend Colombia’s interests, and those of President Santos, who is a great friend of the United States...’ Many sectors have argued that Santos is giving the country away to the FARC. That is outrageous, ridiculous.”