Exclusive: FARC committed to Colombia’s peace despite killings

BOGOTA, Colombia 

The former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that announced a peace treaty with the Colombian government in 2016, said more than 95% of fighters are committed to the truce.

Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, commonly known as Timochenco, is the current president of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force political party that was founded after the peace accord and has the same acronym (FARC) as the rebel group.

He said the group will honor peace regardless of the extrajudicial killings of its members or the rearmament decision of a small faction led by former FARC heavyweight Ivan Marquez.

”It is a good idea to start a new page on this issue,” he said.

”In my understanding, those who have announced rearmament are a handful of outdated dreamers who only want to hide their mistakes. They have no project or any impact on what we are doing. We told the FARC party, Colombia and the world that we stand good on our promise as more than 95 % of those who have signed the peace agreement,” Londono said.

Rearmament is not right

Londono said he lived and fought with most of the people who have taken the rearmament decision and expressed his disappointment.

”I sincerely regretted this decision because Marquez and Jesus Santrich played a major role in the peace talks in Havana. It is a pity, however, that their decision will undermine the consequences of all these efforts,” he said.

Marquez, the former chief peace negotiator of FARC, said he was not happy with how Colombian President Ivan Duque was implementing the peace accord.

Marquez, whose whereabouts have been unknown for more than a year, resurfaced in a 32-minute video in late August in front of 20 armed former guerrillas to announce the “beginning of the new stage of armed struggle.”

Strongly rejecting Marquez’s call to arms, Londono said ”not only the FARC but other political parties in Colombia, the government and the international community rejected Marquez’s decision.”

Despite FARC member deaths, we want peace

Londono said he regrets the killings of FARC members who have put down their weapons.

”I told this many times, even though they kill us, we’re committed to peace. They kill not only former FARC members, but also human rights and environmental activists. This is a consequence of the civil war and is still an issue we must overcome,” he said.

Londono said all FARC members, including Marquez and all who appeared in the video, knew the peace accord was the ”beginning of a very complex process rather than an end.”

“We talked about it, analyzed it. We knew that the far right groups that led to violence in Colombia would not remain calm and target our lives, it is nothing new,” he said.

Londono emphasized that the government and FARC have responsibilities to mitigate tension and avoid polarization in the country in the wake of recent developments.

Venezuela supported peace in Colombia

Elaborating on escalating tensions between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments, Londono said Venezuela has always supported the peace process in Colombia.

Colombia accuses Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of harboring and supporting FARC members who have announced rearmament, an allegation denied by Venezuela.

Calling such accusations ”irresponsible” and ”opportunistic,” Londono said Venezuela ”has nothing to gain from supporting a group that has nothing to hold on to.”

”You may like or dislike the Venezuelan government, but I do not believe that a government will risk its country by supporting an armed group,” he said.

”Venezuela supported the peace process in Colombia during both [former President Hugo] Chavez and Maduro,” he added.

”Why would they now support the opposite project that leads to killing each other?”

Support to peace grows

Londono said the government that came after the peace accord ”did not show signs of commitment despite the fact that a growing number of people demand sustainable peace in Colombia.”

He added that if more people embrace the accord, it will be easier to fight the challenges ahead.

FARC party name might change

Londono said the party’s name might change after the rearmament decision of some rebels.

He said he proposed the idea earlier and party members will soon decide on it during the earliest party congress.

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