Former Colombian rebels disillusioned with FARC party 5 years after peace

Former Colombian rebels disillusioned with FARC party 5 years after peace in Pondores
Yinis Pimienta, 40, a former rebel of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), sews clothes at a tailor shop, part of a productive project, at a reintegration camp in Pondores, Colombia today. November 9, 2021. REUTERS / Luisa Gonzalez

December 2, 2021

By Megan Janetsky

PONDORES, Colombia (Reuters) – Rebel veteran Ynis Pimienta walks through the sweltering heat of the desert in northern Colombia’s La Guajira province, formerly shabby, plastered houses, faded murals of peace theme and some pig pens in the camp for former guerrillas.

The pig farming is just one of many projects aimed at helping veterans reintegrate into Colombian society, which has been put on hold, straining the political party led by the former head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. FARC) established.

FARC signed a peace deal with the government five years ago, ending its part in Colombia’s nearly six-decade armed conflict and becoming a political party called Comunes.

But as implementation of the deal has stalled, the party – which promotes FARC’s Marxist ideals and aims to give veterans a political voice – is disintegrating.

The peace deal won a Nobel Prize for former President Juan Manuel Santos but veterans face targeted violence from both criminal gangs and former teammates, a lack of job opportunities and temptations Join the dissident rebels to reap huge profits from the drug trade and illegal mining.

Some veterans are looking for alternatives to Comunes, led by former FARC commanders who hold guaranteed seats in Congress through 2026.

“They represent their own interests, but they do not represent us,” said Pimienta, 40, of the party leadership. “I don’t support Comunes. They are like all traditional parties. Pure lies”.

The overwhelming feeling in the camp was abandonment, she said.

Comunes senators Victoria Sandino and Israel Zuniga, who have criticized the party leaders for not doing enough to support veteran recruitment efforts and for not making the party more attractive to voters, this year has begun a political movement that they say will address those problems.

“(FARC) has never effectively transformed from a military organization, operating vertically, to a political organization…which relies more on consensus,” Zuniga said.

He won’t be drawn when the new movement, known as Agrupar para Avanzar, or Gather to Advance, can become a separate group.

“This is an alternative,” he said.

Supporters of the movement say it will revive stalled reintegration projects under the leadership of Comunes, conduct investigations of veterans who have left camps to work in cities or reunite with their families and make political decisions in the first place.

But this is too late for some veterans. Armed dissident groups led by former FARC commanders who are wanted in the United States on drug charges have about 2,400 fighters in their ranks, including some who initially supported the deal. favorable.

According to a May report by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, only 28% of the steps in the accord have been fully implemented to date, adding that there is a funding gap of about $474.5 million. for this year.

Political engagement efforts are among those most affected by lack of funding, the report said.

The peace agreement is expected to be implemented in 15 years.


No movement linked to the FARC is likely to garner much support in next year’s congressional and presidential elections. Agrupar Para Avanzar will not run for its own candidates in 2022 but may support candidates from other parties.

Arlene Tickner, a researcher at Bogota’s Universidad de Rosario, said the split does not bode well for Comunes’ long-term future.

“There is a whole range of ideological positions that eventually emerge… not as clear-cut as when they were a rebel group and their purpose was something else,” Tickner said.

A Comunes spokesman declined to comment on fractures within the party or on Agrupar Para Avanzar. Its leadership has repeatedly blamed the administration of President Ivan Duque for implementation problems.

Like thousands of former rebel soldiers, Pimienta moved to a reintegration zone to demobilize and begin her civilian life.

Many of the camps quickly became like small towns, especially as veterans began to have families, but residents said the support for businesses and agricultural cooperatives to Their use is slow and insufficient.

Pimienta, who joined the rebels at the age of 15 to escape the right-wing army that attacked her hometown, sewed white cotton fabric together for a beekeeping suit in an almost empty room of the machine. stitch, a project that has never been successful.

She earns nothing for the job but continues to sew with two others in hopes of keeping the project alive, even as she struggles to care for her five-year-old son.

“We still don’t have any form of steady pay, because this is still not profitable. We don’t have any financial support,” she said.

The others in the Pondores camp are attached to the Comunes.

Lili Guerraluis, 39, joined the FARC after her family was forced to relocate from El Salado, the site of one of the conflict’s most brutal massacres.

She lives with her toddler in a two-room house. His father, a Comunes political organizer, worked elsewhere, but she was afraid to leave the camp for the sake of killing hundreds of veterans.

The government said both criminal gangs led by right-wing ex-soldiers and FARC dissidents were responsible for the killings.

The camaraderie she once felt in the group, Guerraluis said, has melted away, but political divisions will only deepen the problem.

“We want to move forward in solidarity.”

(Reporting by Megan Janetsky; Editing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Alistair Bell) Former Colombian rebels disillusioned with FARC party 5 years after peace


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