As part of last year's peace deal, FARC rebels will launch a political party that provides them a platform to use 'words as the only weapon.' Yet several challenges to implementing the peace deal loom on the horizon.
FARC commanders Ivan Marquez (L) and Carlos Lozada speak at a press conference in Bogota announcing the party launch
Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels announced Monday they will officially launch a political party on September 1, a month after guerrilla fighters disarmed as part of a historic peace deal with the government.
"We have made peace to participate in politics. We said that we would abandon bullets to have words as the only weapon," FARC chief negotiator Ivan Marquez said at press conference in the capital Bogota.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) fought the Colombian government for nearly five decades, before striking a peace deal last year after four years of negotiations in Cuba.
The conflict has left deep wounds in the national soul – resulting in 250,000 dead, about 60,000 missing and seven million displaced -- that must now be addressed through national truth commissions and reconciliation.
The peace deal was narrowly rejected in a national referendum last year before being renegotiated and pushed through Congress by President Juan Manuel Santos.
Opponents of the peace deal were against FARC entering the political sphere after years of violence, kidnappings and drug trafficking. They were also against an amnesty for most ex-fighters or community service projects instead of prison sentences written into the deal.
The peace deal guarantees FARC's political successor 10 unelected seats in Congress up until 2023, after which the party will have to compete to win the seats. It is also able to field candidates to increase the number of seats in Congress during elections.
FARC's political policies, new name and a list of candidates for Congress will be decided before the official launch of the political party on September 1, which will take place outside Congress in central Bogota's Bolivar Plaza.
"In the coming days we will focus on not just the names but above all and fundamentally the proposals," said FARC secretariat member Carlos Antonio Lozada.
FARC emerged in the 1960s out of a peasant revolt in a country plagued by income inequality, rural poverty and large landholders wielding economic and political power.
Key planks of the party are likely to be land reform, gender and youth issues, agricultural development, and urban and economic subjects.
The UN has overseen the demobilization of FARC guerrillas. Three peace monuments will be made out of the weapons
Long road ahead
Many challenges remain in making the peace process a success, including re-integrating some 7,000 demobilized former guerrilla fighters currently in UN disarmament camps.
Their re-integration is considered key in order to ensure they don't end up being recruited by criminal gangs or back fighting in the jungles.
Another lurking danger is political violence against former FARC members and local community leaders and activists.
A previous peace initiative left some 3,000 members left-wing Patriotic Union dead in political violence in the 1980s and 1990s at the hands of right-wing paramilitary units.
The political integration of FARC is being watched by Colombia's last rebel group, the much smaller National Liberation Army (ELN).
The government and ELN are currently in a third round of talks in Ecuador aimed at reaching a similar peace deal as the FARC's. The next step is to advance a ceasefire agreement.
cw/kl (AFP, EFE, Reuters)