Colombia’s FARC Confront Difficult Reality of Returning to Society

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La Silla Vacía traveled throughout Colombia and saw how the FARC’s dream of reincorporating themselves back into society is falling apart.

This is in part because the government has struggled with various aspects of implementing a November 2016 peace agreement signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).

Difficulties also stem from the fact that some guerrilla leaders like Luciano Marin Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” bet on productive mega-projects, which they have been unable to start up, in part due to a preoccupation with setting up their political party and reincorporating their commanders.

*This article was translated, edited for clarity and length, and published with the permission of La Silla Vacía. It does not necessarily represent the views of InSight Crime. See the Spanish original here.

But the difficulties they face are also because of something more vital. Many guerrillas, after years of being under the orders of their bosses, have decided to return to their families and recover their own individual lives.


In the town of Gallo, located in the southern part of the department of Córdoba, 120 former guerrillas of the FARC’s 58th Front were originally concentrated. Now, only about 80 of these former fighters plan to collectively incorporate themselves back in society.

Unlike many of the country’s other demobilization areas, Gallo is not moving forward with a single productive project. The government has not yet arrived in the form of a reincorporation agency to help them finalize their production plans. And unlike in other areas, where the government has given each former guerrilla a stipend of two million pesos (around $680) to start anew, the ex-guerrillas here are paralyzed by the land they’re on.

Gallo is about 5 kilometers from Paramillo National Park, and it sits on land legally considered to be a “demobilized” zone that is protected under law.

In the case of the national park, use of the land is restricted. The reality is that it is not clear how the former guerrillas could use the land for production, which was known since the site was chosen as a demobilization point.

And where the land is not protected, there is water. The Urrá hydroelectric power plant’s reservoir is the only access route to this remote area, which is located five hours away from the capital city of Montería.

“Gallo is not suitable for reincorporation. There is no land, and I don’t know what the … development programs are going to see here,” says Tomás Ojeda, a former commander of the FARC’s 58th Front. Because of this, he says, “between 8 and 10” ex-combatants have left the area, plus those who he says are out but “on leave.”

SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace

The land issue, however, is not the only reason why there is not even one project, though it is probably the strongest and most decisive one. The reality is that some of the ex-guerrillas decided to spend their two million pesos (around $680) on different things.

When they arrived, some of them were seen celebrating in shops and cantinas in the Port of Frasquillo where the boats leave for Gallo. Others had a field day at a small company that sells cell phones in the urban area of Tierralta, located just across from the Agrario Bank where they have accounts.

Now that the war is over and they are free, the former guerrillas illustrate the fragility of the FARC’s cohesion.

“Here we are very bored, and now that we have to support ourselves, things can get complicated,” an ex-guerrilla said.

The exact number of demobilizing FARC members who have left is not clear, as several have left with permission. But officials and small farmers believe that there could be between 30 and 40 who may have also joined the ranks of the Urabeños crime group, who have terrorized the south of Córdoba with extortion and murder.

They add that the Urabeños are offering 1,800,000 pesos (around $610) to those who swap sides, and have also threatened some who have said no.

La Montañita

“Here, we have had to invent our reincorporation ourselves,” says Federico Montes, the political leader of the town of La Montañita in the department of Caquetá.

There are productive projects in La Montañita, but these programs have been started by former FARC members themselves. They have a shoe store, a shed where they are polishing wood to make beds, some homemade gardens, a fish project and four hectares planted with pineapple.

All of these projects come from the two million pesos (around $680) that the demobilized guerrillas received from the government. Of the 300 ex-guerrillas that are here, 200 gave the cooperative 1 million pesos (around $340) each. The projects began with that money. Others did not put it any money because they did not want to. They are instead waiting for the government to come up with something.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

These projects have helped fill the schedules of these ex-guerrillas accustomed to a military discipline that they no longer have. But for some, that has not been enough.

La Silla Vacía found that 30 of the demobilized guerillas have left the area, but it is unclear how many will return.

“There are people who were consumed by the slowness of the government. They think the government won’t comply with us, so they prefer to leave,” Montes said.

But the situation is not the same in other rural areas of the south.

Ramiro Durán, the political leader of the “La Carmelita” demobilization zone in the department of Putumayo, already said publicly that “in the face of uncertainty comes very tempting proposals. Some criminal groups are even offering money and salaries to our former combatants if they join.”

In the “Miravalle” demobilization zone in ​​Caquetá, the murder of ex-guerrilla Maicol Guevara “discourages ex-combatants because there are no guarantees of security,” said local social leader Arvey Alvear.

This mixture of uncertainty, incentives from other criminal groups and the feeling that they can’t visit their families in peace for fear of being killed, shows how difficult it is for the former guerrillas of the southern block to transition back into civilian life.

*This article was translated, edited for clarity and length, and published with the permission of La Silla Vacía. It does not necessarily represent the views of InSight Crime. See the Spanish original here.

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