FARC Entrance to Colombia’s Political Arena Haunted by Guerrillas’ Past

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Colombia’s demobilized FARC guerrilla group recently launched a new political party, but internal divisions have left the future of the new organization uncertain. 

On September 1, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia – FARC), who signed a historic peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016, officially debuted their new political party, the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común – FARC).

The party’s leadership is composed of 111 members, all of whom were in charge of selecting the party’s 15-member National Political Council, the party president and the former guerrillas who will occupy the 10 congressional seats they will be awarded in the Senate and House of Representatives in 2018 as part of the peace agreement. 

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

On September 4, the FARC leadership named Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko” — the former guerrilla commander-in-chief — as party president, in addition to appointing Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” as the party’s political advisor and Jorge Torres Victoria, alias “Pablo Catatumbo,” as the organizational advisor. Both of the latter men are former members of the FARC guerrilla group’s Secretariat. 

After his appointment, Timochenko addressed the FARC’s rank and file in a September 12 letter, acknowledging some of the difficulties and fractures that are taking place within the party. Among other things, he recognized questions regarding his leadership capabilities, what direction the party will take ideologically and how ongoing problems with the peace process may also affect the party.

Timochenko concluded by calling on those who “do not believe in” the peace process to “step aside and let us work.”

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The FARC’s transition to politics has not been smooth, and the road ahead is expected to be equally rocky. As Timochenko has affirmed, the FARC are entering politics with disagreements among the organization’s leaders. This may weaken the ability of the new political party to convince former fighters to join the movement.

Even during the years of peace negotiations hosted in Havana, Cuba, the FARC’s leadership was apparently split along two ideological routes: A more open and less dogmatic faction led by Timochenko, or a more conservative and rigid faction led by Iván Márquez.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace

On top of this split are the obvious challenges the former guerrillas will face in running a political party for the first time, especially under the questionable leadership of Timochenko, who is apparently facing significant internal opposition. The party’s political capital is already being jeopardized by the formation of criminal cells composed of former FARC fighters, lingering questions regarding the total wealth of the former guerrilla organization, and attempts by drug traffickers to pass themselves off as demobilizing FARC members in order to improperly take advantage of judicial benefits under the peace deal.

At the same time, the FARC base is having doubts on whether or not the government is going to fulfill the promises it made under the agreement. The former guerrillas are reportedly worried about what productive projects they will be provided, and whether or not they will receive enough land to help them reintegrate into civilian life.

This shaky start may further incentivize former guerrillas to abandon the accords, making them more vulnerable to recruitment by criminal actors. Indeed, many of the FARC’s members were recruited as youths rather than joining the group organically or for ideological reasons, and may have little interest in joining the political party.

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