Colombia: FARC militants back peace, but warn against paramilitaries

FARC Commander Pablo Catatumbo.

At its 10th National Guerrilla Conference from September 17 to 23, 51 delegates representing various Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) factions across Colombia unanimously reaffirmed their support for the nation’s historic peace deal.

The deal negotiated between FARC representatives and the Colombian government is aimed at ending the more than 50 years of violence that has wracked the South American nation.

However, as they discussed disarming, FARC delegates expressed concern over the threat posed by right-wing paramilitaries and the difficulties of reintegrating themselves into society.

Echoing these doubts, 63-year-old FARC Commander Pablo Catatumbo told a press conference: “Paramilitarism may be the biggest threat to the agreements, it’s the major threat for Colombians, for democracy.

“The delegates wonder what’ll happen with the paramilitary groups, whether the government will abide to what was agreed, how our reintegration into the economy will go, employment … (and) whether political prisoners will be released.”

But despite these fears, Catatumbo said all delegates supported the deal. “The whole of FARC will ratify the deal and will commit to what was agreed,” he said.

The only faction that has publicly disagreed with the deal, the FARC’s First Front, refused to attend the conference. “This sector of the First Front is minimal,” said Catatumbo.

Catatumbo said it was disappointing the deal does not deal with economic issues. “The FARC gave a tough battle, but everyone knows that the government refused to discuss the economic model,” he said.

Nevertheless, he insisted the agreement is not the end but rather the start of a longer struggle that will ensure the FARC’s demands for economic and social justice are heard within a peaceful, democratic framework.

“What we feel is that a door has been opened so people can fight to defend their territories under democratic conditions.”

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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