FARC Surrenders Last Weapons, Colombia Declares ‘True’ End of 50-Year-Long Civil War

FARC Surrenders Last Weapons, Colombia Declares ‘True’ End of 50-Year-Long Civil War

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos (left) is seen here with FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez (right) back in 2016. Photo: Telesur English

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has declared the end of the country’s 50-year-long civil conflict with the leftist group FARC after the guerrillas handed over their last weapons.

FARC (FARC-EP, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army) is the major guerrilla movement involved in the Colombian armed conflict ranging since 1964.

It was formed during the Cold War as a Marxist-Leninist peasant force as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party. It has funded its activities through kidnap and ransom, drug production and trafficking, extortion, or illegal mining.

In 2007, it said it had 18,000 men and women under arms. Its forces have been mostly concentrated in the jungles Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest Colombia.

FARC has been classified as a terrorist organization by the governments of Colombia, the United States, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, and the European Union.

In June 2016, FARC signed a ceasefire accord with Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, in Havana. On August 25, 2016, Santos announced that a peace deal with FARC had been secured after four years of negotiations.

The deal was put to a referendum on October 2, 2016, which failed to approve it with 50.24% voting against.

However, on November 24, 2016, FARC and the Colombian government signed a revised peace deal which was adopted by the Colombian Congress on November 30. As per the agreement, on June 27, 2017, FARC ceased to be an armed group.

President Juan Manuel Santos declared Colombia’s 50-year war with FARC guerrillas finally over on Tuesday, August 16, 2017, as the last truckloads of decommissioned weapons rolled away to be melted down, AFP reported.

Santos himself shut a padlock on the last lot of decommissioned rifles before it was taken out of a remote demobilization camp to formally seal the UN-supervised disarmament by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“With the laying down of arms … the conflict is truly over and a new phase begins in the life of our nation,” Santos said at a ceremony in Pondores, a remote area in the northern Guajira department.

“This is truly a historic moment for the country. We have been a republic for 198 years. Never had we had such a long conflict and today is indeed the last breath of that conflict,” the Colombian President stated.

The leftist rebel force has said it will officially transform into a political party on September 1 in order reintegrate into civilian life as part of the historic peace deal signed last year.

“Soon we will be holding a founding congress for the new political party that will be called the Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia,” said one of FARC’s senior leaders, Ivan Marquez, at Tuesday’s ceremony.

“We do not want to break with our past. We were and will continue to be a revolutionary force,” said Marquez.

FARC arose in May 1964 from a peasants’ revolt, and its ranks were made up mostly of country-dwellers who rallied behind the group’s Marxist-Leninist ideology, with land reform its key demand.

The conflict between FARC and the Colombian government left behind a quarter of a million dead, some 60,000 missing, and seven million displaced.

For the time being, former FARC rebels will live in 26 demobilization camps. Some 450 renegade FARC members are refusing to embrace the idea of peace.

A smaller rebel group called the National Liberation Army is now in peace talks with the government of Colombia.

On Tuesday the group also brought out 24 minors who were child soldiers still under the protection of the FARC. They joined another 88 who were already turned over to the government, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

One reintegration issue is how to ensure the physical safety of former rebel fighters, who many Colombians feel are getting off too easy. Marquez said two former rebels have been murdered in recent days.

Even bigger problems are how the former fighters will make a living, and the issue of justice for atrocities committed during the war.

The accord calls for non-prison punishment for rebels and soldiers who confess to crimes, pay reparations to victims and pledge to renounce violence forever.