Colombia′s former FARC rebels face political challenges following peace agreement | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 28.07.2017
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Colombia's former FARC rebels face political challenges following peace agreement

The weapons are gone, but the political path forward for Colombia's former FARC rebels is still in doubt. Not long before the planned founding of their political party on September 1, the group is facing legal obstacles.

Words, not weapons. In one month from now, from August 26 to September 1, former members of the FARC rebel group will convene to form a new party. The ex-combatants want to swap their Kalashnikovs for seats in Colombia's parliament.

The new FARC party will begin by receiving five seats in the Senate and five in the House of Representatives. Additionally, as part of the peace process, it will receive a financial grant in line with other parties.

Nonetheless, the path to political representation for the ex-guerillas has been plagued by problems not foreseen during the peace process. "The founding of the party by ex-members and supporters of FARC is happening before the justice system has decided who may take part in politics and who, on the basis of crimes committed during the period of armed struggle, must go before the courts," said Maria Victoria Llorente, leader of the Colombian organization "Ideas for Peace" (FIP).

Read more: Colombia's FARC rebels seal historic disarmament

This is an "unfortunate development," she said, adding: "I hope that FARC knows enough not to nominate someone for office who will not be eligible for the position."

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FARC rebels complete disarmament



Opposition hits back

"The transformation of FARC into a political movement is the most important consequence of the peace agreement," says Alvaro Villarraga Sarmiento, director of the country's National Center for Historical Memory. In his view, the party faces many challenges.

"It must define its role within the peace agreement, revise its platform and its vocabulary and most importantly deal with the opponents of the agreement," says Sarmiento. The latter group has already promised to smash the agreement to pieces if they win in the 2018 election.

Read more: FARC leader in hospital after stroke

Leading the charge against the peace agreement with FARC is the conservative Democratic Center party, which has warned that success for the FARC party could bring with it growing political influence from Cuba and Venezuela.

FIP leader Maria Victoria Llorente feels this is exaggerated. "The FARC party has a maximum potential of around 3 percent. It's not clear to many which factors have helped ex-President Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela gain influence," she said.

FARC commanders Ivan Marquez and Carlos Lozada deliver a press conference

FARC commanders Ivan Marquez (pictured left) and Carlos Lozada announced the formation of a political party on July 24



The Venezuelan boogeyman

Fears over the country's relationship with Venezuela are also exaggerated for other reasons, according to sociologist Trino Marquez, a professor at Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. "The FARC party has far too little support from the people," Marquez says. A recent poll puts their support at around 3 to 4 percent in the entire country.

Colombian Senate leader Efrain Cepeda refused to buckle under the weight of skepticism and criticism of the planned integration of FARC into the country's political landscape.

Read more: Rediscovering Colombia without war

FARC rebels march through the jungle

The civil war in Colombia lasted over 50 years

"I don't see why some still reject this peace agreement even after the demobilization and handing over of weapons. Should we send the guerrillas back into the mountains and give them their weapons back?"

For FARC one thing is certain: Seven months after the signing of the peace agreement and 53 years after the beginning of the armed conflict, the country's civil war is finally over. Perhaps it could have all been avoided if the demands from the inhabitants of the small Andean enclave of Marquetalia had been met all those years ago.

Some 50 agricultural workers had asked for a school, streets, medical care and permission to farm the land. Colombian forces met their demands with violence, bombing and then occupation.

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