Colombia: From guns to the ballot box — the FARC transforms itself into political party

September 8, 2017

Colombia’s communist army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), relaunched itself as a political party on September 1 at a concert for “reconciliation and peace” in Bolivar Square, Bogota.

The guerrilla movement, which fought one of the longest civil wars in history until agreeing to a ceasefire with the government last year, confirmed its new name the day before at the end of its five-day congress.

It is now known as the Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons, which will allow it to retain the FARC acronym.

The FARC was formed in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party after rural communist strongholds came under attack by the military.

The former rebel group has maintained a strong presence in jungle areas ever since, defending poor communities from violence by the government and right-wing paramilitaries.

The FARC has announced that it will seek an electoral alliance with the Communist Party — the two organisations formally separated in 1993 — in the 2018 elections.

It takes heart from a Gallup poll released on August 31 that showed it was less unpopular than any other political party — while 84% had a negative view of it, 87% had a negative view of Colombia’s other political parties.

The FARC’s top leader Rodrigo Londono — better known as Timochenko — insists that the group will not “give up on its ideological foundations.”

Another leading member, Ivan Marquez, said: “We don’t want to break ties with our past. We have been and will continue to be a revolutionary organisation.”

South American bloc UNASUR’s secretary-general Ernesto Samper, who attended the FARC’s congress, said: “One of the main functions of the new party will be to lead the formation of a large progressive bloc for peace.”

The FARC’s transformation into a peaceful political party follows four years of tense negotiations in Havana sponsored by the Cuban, Venezuelan, Chilean and Norwegian governments.

It signed a ceasefire with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last year and handed its weapons to the United Nations in June this year.

Though the United States and European Union classified the group as a terrorist organisation, United Nations studies estimate that the FARC and rival left-wing army the National Liberation Army (ELN) only accounted for 12% of deaths in the long civil war, with right-wing paramilitary groups responsible for 80%.

[Reprinted from Morning Star Online.]

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