Colombia’s FARC guerrilla group is putting pressure on the government to comply with promises made under last year’s peace agreement at a critical moment in the implementation process, underscoring lingering concerns about the potential for dissidence among former rebel fighters.
In a September 24 open letter to President Juan Manuel Santos, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko” expressed concerns that the government is not complying with key components of a peace accord signed in November 2016.
Timochenko is the former commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia – FARC) and was recently appointed president of the group’s new political party.
His letter, which comes just one month after the FARC completed demobilization, highlights several issues that have arisen or worsened during the subsequent reintegration process.
For instance, Timochenko argues that the government does not have a specific reintegration plan for former fighters, and that the congressional process for approving critical pieces of legislation related to the peace process has been too slow-moving. The FARC leader wrote that these shortcomings have left many former guerrillas stuck in a state of limbo and suffering from poor conditions in designated concentration zones and prisons.
Moreover, the letter says that thousands of former FARC members have not yet been certified to receive identification cards, bank accounts and basic income stipends, which are considered to be key parts of the process of reintegrating former fighters into Colombian society.
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As the process of implementing the peace accord progresses from demobilizing ex-combatants to reintegrating them, the government’s apparent inability to resolve these issues could exacerbate the problem of dissidence among former FARC fighters.
The FARC’s leadership has so far shown a largely unified commitment to the peace process, as evidenced by the guerrillas turning over their arms and a list of their assets. However, the government’s failure to follow through on promises made in the accords has been a major source of discontent within the FARC. And as InSight Crime has documented, the lure of lucrative criminal activities has persuaded many elements of the FARC to break away from the peace process, sometimes joining existing criminal groups or forming their own new ones.
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In the short term, it will likely prove difficult for the government to address the FARC’s concerns because the process for approving key legislation to facilitate reintegration has so far moved at a slow pace. This is due largely to a decision by the Constitutional Court earlier this year that made it more difficult to quickly shepherd peace deal legislation through congress. In addition, congress only has two months remaining of a year-long “fast track” provision meant to shorten the debate process needed to pass peace accord-related laws.