Hemispheric securityColombia's FARC suspends political campaign, citing threats, violence
The Colombian FARC’s political movement announced earlier today (Friday) that it was suspending its campaigning activities for the 9 March legislative elections because threats and violent protests have disrupted its rallies in several cities in Colombia. Two years ago the Colombian government signed a peace agreement with FARC, ending a violent insurgency which began in 1964. Colombian are evenly divided over whether or not an accord with FARC was a good idea, but polls show that the overwhelming majority of Colombians – around 80 percent — believe that even with a signed accord, former guerrilla members should be in prison, and, if not in prison, that they should at least not play a role in national politics.
The Colombian FARC’s political movement announced earlier today (Friday) that it was suspending its campaigning activities for the 9 March legislative elections because threats and violent protests have disrupted its rallies in several cities in Colombia.
Two years ago, the government of Colombia and the Marxist FARC guerrilla movement signed a peace accord which put an end to Latin America’s longest insurgency (the FARC, inspired by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, launched its war against the Colombian government in 1964). One of the clauses of the peace accord, negotiated in Havana for four years under the auspices of the UN, allowed members of the FARC to form a new political party in 2017.
For the next two legislative election cycles – 2018 and 2022 — the FARC political party is guaranteed five of 102 seats in the Colombian Senate and another five of 166 seats in the House of Representatives. The FARC is running candidates in 74 districts, and if it the party’s candidates do better in the election, then the party’s representation will increase — but it cannot fall below ten seats in both houses, regardless of how the party’s candidates perform.
Beginning in 2026, the FARC will no longer be guaranteed a minimum number of seats.
The FARC leader, Rodrigo Londoño, who is universally known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, is also a candidate in the 27 May presidential election.
Political analysts say that the party would have been better off renaming itself, because of the negative image FARC has in the eyes of many Colombians (in the 54 years of war, FARC has killed about 220,000 Colombians; driven 6.6 million from their homes into internal exile; and kidnapped more than 24,000 for ransom), but the former rebels decided to use the acronym FARC as its political organization’s name. Although the acronym is the same, it stands for different names: The “FARC” in the name of the Marxist guerrilla movement stood for Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), while the “FARC” in the name of the political party stands for Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (Common Alternative Revolutionary Force).
Many Colombian opposed the peace accord. Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Colombians – around 80 percent — believe that former guerrilla members should be in prison – and, if not in prison, that they should at least not play a role in national politics. Centro Democratico, the populist right-wing party of former president Alvaro Uribe, has made opposition to the peace accord the central element in its campaign.
In several places, especially in rural districts, FARC rallies were met with violence. FARC vice presidential candidate Imelda Daza announced that the political events are “temporarily suspended” until the government is able to provide her party with “minimum guarantees” of safety.
“At the very least, we demand respect for our physical integrity and the right to present our ideas,” she said.
The Telegraph reports that at a campaign stop last weekend, the FARC candidate for president, Timochenko, was confronted by protesters at two separate events who shouted “murderer, terrorist” and pelted him and his vehicle with eggs, tomatoes, and plastic bottles.
FARC Senate candidate Ivan Marquez was forced to cancel an event on Sunday because dozens of protesters, some of them armed, would not allow him to speak.
Jorge Torres Victoria, the head of the FARC political party, charged that the campaign of disruption against FARC political rallies is the result of “coordinated attacks,” threats, and “widespread messages of hate” on social media which are “inciting violence.” Torres Victoria said that groups affiliated with rival Centro Democratico were behind the move to threaten FARC candidates.
President Juan Manuel Santos surged Colombians to respect democratic norms. “I ask that we be tolerant and generous between ourselves. I don’t think this is in the interest of democracy and we all must reject these aggressions that some candidates are suffering, especially the FARC candidates,” he said.
FARC leader Timochenko has been campaigning vigorously, making the fight against poverty his major theme, but polls show that he would not receive more than 1 or 2 percent in the presidential election.