Colombia’s FARC becomes political party

FARC members attend the opening of their National Congress in Bogota, Colombia, August 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Colombia's FARC, formerly a guerrilla group, re-launches itself Friday as the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, sealing its transformation into a leftist political party following its disarmament after a half-century civil conflict.
The name controversially retains the same Spanish acronym and the revolutionary spirit of the communist guerrilla group, which fought a bloody 52-year campaign against the state before signing a peace deal last year.
The party will hold a formal launch ceremony on Friday on Bolivar Square, near the presidential palace in the heart of the political district in the capital.
Demobilized and renamed, it now faces a struggle for political acceptance in a country scarred by decades of attacks and kidnappings.
Delegates from the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known by its Spanish acronym the FARC, have spent the week in a founding congress to choose their political representatives.
The choice of name was the other key item on the agenda. The group's leader, Rodrigo Londono, announced it on Twitter on Thursday evening.
Some FARC leaders wanted to keep the "revolutionary" element while others favored softening the group's image by dropping it in favor of "New Colombia."
Londono, also known as Timochenko, said 628 delegates at the congress voted for Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, with 264 for "New Colombia."
FARC leader Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, known as "Timochenko," speaks during the opening of the group's National Congress in Bogota on August 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
In Spanish, the new name, Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Comun, has the same acronym as the former title of the group, so it will continue to be known as the FARC.
That is a sensitive point in an already delicate peace process, since the acronym FARC is for many Colombians synonymous with the deaths and suffering of the war.
A spokesman for the party said an official English translation for its title would be announced on Friday.
The FARC formed as a communist movement in 1964 from a peasant uprising for rural land rights. Over the following decades the conflict drew in various rebel forces, paramilitary groups and state forces.
It left some 260,000 people confirmed dead, 60,000 unaccounted, for and seven million displaced in Latin America's longest conflict.
Londono said at the start of the congress that the group will advocate "a democratic political regime that guarantees peace and social justice, respects human rights, and guarantees economic development for all."
The new party will compete in next year's general elections.
Regardless of how many votes they may win, the peace deal signed with the government last year guarantees the FARC five seats in each of the two legislative chambers for two terms.
Colombians narrowly rejected the government's peace deal with the FARC in a referendum last year.
President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC tweaked it and the government pushed it through congress.
FARC leaders and officials warn that remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups are still carrying out attacks in conflict zones.