Colombia's former Farc rebel chief 'Timochenko' to run for president

  • Timochenko, real name Rodrigo Londoño, will contest 2018 election
  • Farc guerrillas demobilised last year ending 52 years of war

For most Colombians, former rebel chief Rodrigo Londoño – better known by his wartime alias “Timochenko” – is more commonly associated with kidnappings and bomb attacks than voter polling and stumping on the campaign trail.

So an announcement that the leader of the demobilised Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Farc, plans to run for president in next year’s elections, has prompted widespread outrage in the Andean nation.

His first test will be convincing a suspicious electorate that he has left his violent past behind. Within minutes of the announcement, “Timochenko” was trending on Colombian Twitter – with most users expressing anger.

“Each vote that Timochenko receives is an insult to the victims,” one user tweeted.

But Londoño’s move into politics forms a crucial part of a peace deal sealed last November, ending 52 years of war that left 220,000 dead and more than seven million displaced.

The deal initially failed to pass a public referendum, with many voters objecting to the component that promised the rebels 10 uncontested seats in congress for two electoral cycles.

Though the peace accord was amended and later ratified through congress, Wednesday’s announcement is unlikely to assuage the fears that many Colombians harbour of a communist organisation in mainstream politics.

Some reactions on social media were more positive, however. “I prefer Rodrigo Londoño legally losing elections to illegally killing civilians, soldiers and police officers,” one user wrote.

Imelda Daza is to be Timochenko’s running mate.
Imelda Daza is to be Timochenko’s running mate. Photograph: Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

The rebels launched their political party in late September following the handover of 7,000 weapons, changing their name to the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, and retaining the acronym Farc.

The group also announced the names of former fighters who will fill the promised seats in congress. Among them will be former commanders Iván Márquez, Pablo Catatumbo and Carlos Antonio Lozada. Londoño’s running mate will be Imelda Daza, the head of the Patriotic Union, a leftwing political party formed during a previous attempt to make peace with the Farc.

Despite the Farc’s Marxist roots, Daza told reporters that the party’s idea is not to change the country’s economic model but to improve it.

“We want a model that is more inclusive,” she said. “A model that is more humane.”

A potential spanner in the works of the Farc’s political foray is that ex-commanders will probably face trial for human rights abuses and war crimes as special transitional courts come into play. One component of the peace deal stipulates that special courts will try guerrilla members suspected of serious wartime crimes, albeit with lighter sentencing guidelines.

Colombia’s hardline right was unanimous in its condemnation of the Farc’s political ambitions.

Iván Duque, who is also expected to run for the presidency, tweeted his anger. “It’s an offense to the country that those who have committed crimes against humanity are aspiring to elected office without facing justice.”


Joe Parkin Daniels in Bogotá

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