Farc eyes Colombia's 2018 elections as it seeks new political dawn

Party faces uphill battle for political acceptance by voters who experienced it as a terror threat over decades of violence

Colombia’s Farc guerrilla group has officially recast itself as a political party, redesigning its logo as a rose but keeping the acronym that many Colombians equate with its violent past.

After a five-day founding congress in Bogotá, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia became the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, which in Spanish retains its controversial acronym.

Iván Márquez , a member of Farc’s secretariat, said after the party meeting: “For some the Farc acronym carries a negative charge but it also represents our history. We are going to continue the conflict but through legal politics.”

The logo for the new party is a stylised red rose with a five-pointed star in its centre above the letters Farc in green.

In a press conference, Marquez said that they chose the symbol to turn the rose into a symbol of unity. “Whenever people see a red rose they will think of the Farc,” he said.

The Farc and Colombian government signed a peace deal last year to end more than 52 years of conflict that left thousands dead or disappeared and drove more than 6 million people from their homes.

Under the peace deal, most of the fighters were granted amnesty and allowed to participate in politics. Those responsible for atrocious crimes will have to face a special justice tribunal.

To celebrate the transformation, Farc threw a party on Friday afternoon in Bogotá’s central Bolívar Square, flanked by the seats of power including Congress, the Palace of Justice, city hall and the national cathedral.

Several thousand ex-combatants and delegates to the convention danced and cheered bands including The Rebels of the South made up of ex-Farc fighters.

The party now faces an uphill battle for political acceptance in a country taught to see its members as a terrorist threat after decades of kidnappings, bomb attacks and extortion.

But a Gallup poll published on 31 August showed that Colombians find Farc slightly more palatable than the country’s traditional political parties. While Farc has an 84% disapproval rating, 87% disapprove of the other political parties, discredited by corruption scandals.

The new Farc party hopes to capitalise on that. “We will fight against corruption and the rot of those who have been governing our country,” said Pablo Catatumbo, another Farc leader.

Colombia’s peace deal means Farc fighters can finally have babies.

The Farc will compete in next year’s congressional elections but, under the peace deal, is assured of at least five seats in the senate and five in the house of representatives.

Márquez, who was elected to congress for the Patriotic Union party during a previous attempt at peace, said he would most likely be a candidate.

The party will not field a candidate for president in the 2018 elections, preferring to seek a coalition with other leftist forces, but Márquez made it clear that it will one day. “We have entered legal politics because we want to govern,” he said.

Farc’s leadership said they had sought an audience with Pope Francis, who will visit Colombia next week on a four-day tour. Márquez said he had not yet received a response.

Farc started in 1964 as a peasant-based uprising demanding better land distribution and political freedoms. It expanded into a formidable guerrilla army in the late 1990s and profited from Colombia’s booming drug trade.

After a steady military campaign beat its fighters into retreat, the group agreed to peace talks with President Juan Manuel Santos in 2012. The peace deal was signed last year and earned Santos the Nobel peace prize.

Contributor

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá

The GuardianTramp

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