Former FARC Leaders Issue A Call To Arms In Colombia

Ex-FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) leaders released a video last week claiming that they will be picking up arms and initiating a new era of fighting despite the peace process being in full effect in Colombia. FARC is a rebel group born in 1964 out of Leninist-Marxist ideology. They comprised of farmers and poorer townspeople that were against the economic inequality of the time. Over the years, they became involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping, as well as raiding entire villages, in order to fund their activities. In 2002, they had about 20,000 fighters. By 2016, President Juan Manuel Santos initiated a peace process that would grant FARC seats in the senate, partial immunity if they agreed to confess to their crimes in the Special Jurisdiction of Peace (JEP), and reintegration into society. 

In the video released on Thursday, Ivan Marquez and Santrich, leaders of the FARC, along with some 20 armed members are shown as Ivan Marquez exclaims: “When we signed the agreement of Havana, we did it with the conviction that it was possible to change the lives of the humble and the dispossessed. But the state has not fulfilled even the most important of the obligations — that is, to guarantee the life of its citizens, and particularly to prevent their murder for political reasons.” Ivan Marquez is referring to the hundreds of left-wing activists and over 150 rebels that have been killed since the incorporation of the peace deal. Peace commissioner, Miguel Ceballos, released a statement in response calling for peace tribunals that would investigate the group’s war crimes and void the benefits these FARC members would receive under the peace process. President Duque supported this by announcing the creation of this special unit to track the rebels. He also said this resurgence was supported by President Maduro of Venezuela and therefore the “birth of a new guerrilla movement.” 

However, FARC clarified that they would not use the same tactics there were notorious for these past 52 years such as kidnapping, ransom, and killing of civilians; instead, they are to focus on only “responding to offensives” and “seek dialogue with local landowners and business people.” 

These new developments in Colombia proves that the peace process has been losing support from all sides. President Duque is not as idealistic as Juan Manuel Santos and is willing to carry out attacks against the rebels and punish them without concern for the existing peace process. In my opinion, the persistence and strength of FARC cannot be met with air raids or accusatory remarks. FARC, on the other hand, claims they’re liberators for the poor but those are precisely the populations they have exploited and tormented for the past 50 years. In a grander scheme, President Duque is adamant in that FARC is allied with President Maduro which also disallows him from trying to further negotiations with the group. On top of this, the terrorist attack carried out in Bogota at the beginning of the year by the ELN, allies of FARC, is still fresh in the memory of the government. The tensions are very high because the government does not want to pardon these terrible acts and seem permissive to the rebels but this vulnerability is the only way in which the FARC is willing to oblige by the peace deal. 

I have been entrenched in this conflict as long as I can remember. My family has experienced many deaths and kidnappings as a result of terror imposed on civilians for the past 50 years. I find it hard to sympathize with the FARC but I still believe the Colombian government has not been successful in setting up a strong peace process and staying true to the promises they made to all the Colombian people. As part of the peace process, the government agreed to set up basic projects like roads, schools, and proper water sources in more rural areas of the country. These were areas that were historically ran by the FARC. When rebels began the reintegration process, the government did not maintain their promises to Colombian civilians so the ELN (National Liberation Front) stepped in to fill these gaps, therefore creating another layer of violence. The root of the issues that have plagued the country for decades is blatant political corruption, economic inequality, and disregard for the poorer populations of farmers. Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, and Duque have all tried to cover this underlying issue by pursuing these groups, which resulted in many more deaths, instead of working through solutions from the beginning. Still, the FARC committed horrific atrocities and continuously blames the government for their actions. Amongst the leadership, at least, they have lost sight of their true objectives and were granted unjustified immunities. At the moment, the best thing the government can do is to continue focusing on the reintegration process of former FARC members and work to further the tribunal for justice for victims so as not to shatter the fragility of this peace deal. If the FARC is truthful about their continuous commitment to peace and reduction of violence, they should be willing to give up drug trafficking and shady operations in order to be taken seriously as a political faction by the government. Nevertheless, the Colombian people still bear the scars, trauma, and resentment towards the FARC that will not be forgotten anytime soon. Time for healing and rational responses that benefit not just the government but also civilians is vital in inching towards peace.

Kerent Benjumea


The Organization for World Peace