Colombia’s former FARC rebels move to launch political party

FARC members attend the opening of the first gathering of the National Congress on August 27, 2017 in Bogota, Colombia. (Photo by AFP)
Disarmed members of Colombia’s FARC rebel group seek a return to the country’s political stage, taking the first steps to turn into a party and attend next year’s elections.
On Sunday, about 1,200 delegates from the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) attended an opening ceremony in Bogota for a congress tasked with picking political representatives.
“At this event we are transforming the FARC into a new, exclusively political organization,” said the force’s commander Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko.
Timochenko said the group will support “a democratic political regime that guarantees peace and social justice, respects human rights and guarantees economic development for all of us who live in Colombia.”
FARC leader Rodrigo Lodrono “Timochenko” Echeverri speaks during the opening ceremony of their National Congress on August 27, 2017 in Bogota, Colombia. (Photo by AFP)
This is the first such gathering since last month, when the former rebels completed the UN-monitored disarmament process as part of the historic peace deal it signed with the government last year.
The group is slated to hold meetings this week to choose a new name for the party. The week-long event is scheduled to conclude on September 1, with a rally on Bogota’s Bolivar Square.
Another former commander of the force, Ivan Marquez, said he expected the movement to call itself the Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia.
FARC commander Ivan Marquez speaks during the National Congress on August 27, 2017 in Bogota, Colombia. (Photo by AFP)
However, Timochenko canvassed opinion on Twitter and most respondents favored the name “New Colombia.”
Under the peace deal, the new political party would hold five seats in each of the two houses of the parliament for two terms regardless of how many votes it may secure in the general elections.
On Friday, United Nations monitors had confirmed that FARC rebels had formally completed the process to lay down arms under the internationally-monitored peace accord designed to end a half-century-old conflict.
The UN has received 7,132 weapons from 7,000 FARC rebels in 26 points across the country. Under the agreement, all the FARC’s weapons were to be destroyed.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos won a Nobel Peace Prize for his peace efforts.