BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are changing into, well, the FARC; the rebels are completing their transition from an armed insurgent group to a political party known as the Alternative Revolutionary Force of the Community.
As part of its “foundational conclave” in Bogotá, the group’s figures decided on the name that will keep the FARC initials intact and will present itself as a political party whose symbol will be a red rose with a five-pointed star in the middle of the petals.
The information about the party’s future was shared on the twitter account of Rodrigo Londoño, whose former alias was Timochenko, the top leader of the FARC.
Londoño said that there was a vote on the new name of the political party; 628 of the delegates voted to maintain the initials with which the group has operated for over half a century while 264 delegates wished to start over by naming the nascent political party “New Colombia.”
The newly-born Alternative Revolutionary Force of the Community name is not far from the name mentioned last month by Iván Márquez, the organization’s second-in-command, when he said the party would be called the Revolutionary Alternative Force of Colombia.
Regardless of the eventual registered name, both top men insisted that the “revolutionary” aspect is still the most important. Márquez said that “our character is and has been revolutionary, and we will lead our political party with that same character.”
The revolutionary character mentioned was also used to describe a new system of governing and politics in Colombia as the party used the corruption scandals enveloping many of the “mainstream” governments in the region, most involving the multibillion dollar Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht (including Colombia), as fuel to criticize their new competition as “in decay.”
Following the close of the concave, Londoño and Márquez announced before several thousand people in the central Plaza Bolívar, some of them former rebels and some civilians, that the FARC will be participating and presenting candidates for the March 2018 parliamentary election.
In spite of a clear lack of hierarchy within the party with the exception of the top two aforementioned leaders, the government has assured the FARC of five spots in the Chamber of Representatives and five in the Senate, a number that will give them absolutely no power but will usher them into the political sphere.
The full conversion of the revolutionary group into a political party comes just weeks after they concluded their weapons handover to the United Nations force in Colombia.
In late February, the last FARC unit arrived in one of the 26 so-called “transition zones,” essentially demobilization camps established in rural and topographically-challenging regions throughout the country in departments like Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca, La Guajira, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo and Valle del Cauca, where the 7,000-plus force turned over their weapons and began the transition to civilian life.
Pondores, La Guajira was the site of the very last white UN container being sealed and shipped off in a semi-truck while President Juan Manuel Santos, top FARC figures and journalists looked on to mark the end of the important stage. At the final count, 8,112 firearms and over one million ammunition boxes were surrendered while the positions of 873 weapons storage sites were revealed.
The remaining ammunition boxes and individual cartridges will be incinerated while the firearms will be registered, packed and melted. The remaining material that is produced by the foundries will be made into monuments which will be placed in Bogotá (as it is the Colombian capital), Havana (as it was the host of the peace talks) and New York City (at the headquarters of the United Nations).
“What we once thought impossible is now reality. The disarmament of the FARC is definite,” said Santos just after he ceremoniously closed and locked the doors of the last UN weapons container. “In spite of the delays, we have managed to achieve this objective. By comparison, the abandonment of arms elsewhere like Ireland took ten years but we have thankfully managed to do the same here in eight months,” added Santos.
In December of 2016, Congress ratified the agreement reached during peace talks between the FARC and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. The peace talks in question between the FARC, Latin America’s oldest insurgency group, and the Colombian government, started in October of 2012 initially in Oslo, Norway and then continued in Havana, Cuba with the hopes of ending a conflict that has lasted over half a century.
In reaction to a ultraviolent crackdown on peasant organizations, the FARC militarized in 1964. As the primary guerrilla force, the FARC rebels have been engaged in war with the Colombian government since then, a war that has claimed more than 220,000 lives and displaced nearly seven million more.
Agreements on land reform have been achieved during the peace talks, along with the group’s future political participation and the topic of the illicit drug trade. The last point that was agreed upon, which was transitional justice, carried with it the sub-point of suspect and victim recognition and reparation, the most sensitive subject given that it concerned all those affected by the conflict.