Bogota, Nov 23 (EFE).- The last leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group once said he hoped that he and President Ivan Duque could shake hands on the five-year anniversary of the historic 2016 peace deal and send a clear signal to the country’s inhabitants about its success.
That photo-op never materialized, and the 62-year-old erstwhile rebel chief, Rodrigo Londoño, instead laments what he says has been the conservative administration’s lack of commitment to implementing the accord.
“Unfortunately, we Colombians elected a president who was backed by a political party that always opposed the agreement, that even said during the campaign that the goal was to tear it to shreds,” the leader of Comunes (Commons), the political party founded by ex-FARC combatants, said in an interview with Efe last month.
“And on this fifth anniversary you have to say they didn’t succeed.”
Londoño said of the peace deal the FARC signed with the administration of then-President Juan Manuel Santos, an accord that brought an end to the group’s five-decade war against a succession of Colombian administrations, that it was undeniably the right decision.
And on Tuesday those seeking a negotiated solution to Colombia’s ongoing armed conflict got a boost from President Joe Biden’s decision – confirmed to Efe by a US congressional source – to drop the FARC’s 24-year-old designation as a terrorist group.
The ex-FARC chief, whose nom de guerre was Timochenko, said the possibility of a real and lasting peace existed in many regions in the wake of that accord, although the election of Duque in 2018 put those hopes on hold.
“The Colombian government doesn’t promote reconciliation, just the opposite. It instead uses stigmatization,” which leads to antagonism and conflict among Colombians, he said.
Some of the FARC delegates to the peace negotiations in Havana, including Ivan Marquez and the late Jesus Santrich, returned to the armed struggle over the past five years.
“They’re not dissidents. They’re deserters of the process,” Londoño said, adding that he has not tried to communicate with his former comrades. “The majority and the best of us are still here, and that (a return to the armed struggle) has no future.”
Londoño, who now lives with his “partner” and a two-year-old son, said of the one time Duque reached out to him by phone that it was not the “intimate conversation” he was expecting.
“It wasn’t possible to reach an agreement to build something around this fifth anniversary because they’re always with this thing of “peace with legality,” he said, referring to the current administration’s program for implementing the peace deal.
“What does that mean? That the peace (agreement) was illegal? It seems like a sophism” and a means of hiding the fact “they’re not for peace but instead continue to promote war as a way of leading and a way of governing,” the former guerrilla chief said.
But the former members of the FARC’s top command, who soon will receive their first sentences under the peace process’ transitional justice system for the kidnappings of thousands of people, also has been accused of hypocrisy for an alleged lack of remorse when apologizing to victims in court.
“That’s complicated, determining if it’s heart-felt or isn’t heart-felt,” Londoño said, adding that in his case his apology was sincere and that he has come to see kidnapping as “unethical.”
A total of 296 signers of the Nov. 24, 2016, peace deal have been killed over the past five years, a death toll that Londoño attributes to the government’s “stigmatization” of the former combatants.
“This fifth anniversary should serve (as a moment) for us to reflect on that and summon the effort to achieve the goal we Colombians have in 2022 to elect a president and a Congress that ensures we’ll go down a path of reconciliation and peace,” Londoño said.
Asked what peace means to him, Londoño said it is the “certainty that you can work, live, set goals in the future without fear that war will get in the way” of those plans.