Colombia’s FARC victims campaign for ‘Yes’ vote in peace deal

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Harry Gonzalez, Eduardo Bejarano and Sebastian Echeverry have at least two things in common: their parents were killed by the FARC and now they’re campaigning for the “Yes” vote ahead of the Colombian referendum on the peace agreement with the guerrillas, scheduled for October 2.

Colombia’s FARC victims campaign for ‘Yes’ vote in peace deal

Colombia’s FARC rebel leaders set to ratify peace dealBogota (Colombia) – 15 September 2016:Colombia’s FARC rebels are set to vote on a historic peace agreement with the government to end more than a half-century of conflict before giving up their armed struggle in favor of politics.Guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are converging on a camp in southern Colombia for their 10th national conference, the first time they will discuss peace instead of fighting during such an event.It is scheduled for September 17 to 23 in an area called El Caguan, the Marxist group’s Switzerland-sized stronghold during the continent’s oldest rebellion, which began as a peasant uprising in 1964 and still boasts 7,500 armed fighters.”It will be a democratic event that will show the route to follow,” tweeted FARC leader Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez.He agreed to the peace deal with the government on August 24 after nearly four years of negotiations that took place in Cuba after three previous attempts were aborted in 1984, 1991 and 1999.Arriving from Cuba at the conference site in the vast Yari plains several hours from the town of San Vicente del Caguan, Jimenez underscored the event’s importance.”Everything we are now doing will help us achieve our goals,” he said, stepping off a helicopter provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to the guerrilla media outlet Noticias Nueva Colombia.If the conference approves the peace deal, the FARC leader will sign the agreement with center-right President Juan Manuel Santos on September 26 in the Caribbean port of Cartagena.- From war to peace -Some 200 FARC delegates, including 29 members of the general staff and delegates elected by the rank-and-file, will decide on whether to approve the agreement to end a conflict that drew in other leftist guerrillas, extreme right-wing paramilitary groups and criminal gangs, leaving at least 260,000 dead, 45,000 missing and some 6.9 million displaced.Arriving in El Caguan, guerrilla commander Pastor Alape said that “at the other (conferences), we talked about war plans, and at this one, processes and initiatives toward peace, toward strengthening democracy in Colombia.”The conference is set to mark another first: FARC leaders will be meeting not in secret, but with the authorities’ full support in the presence of around 900 people, including 50 guests and some 350 journalists from around the world.This “last conference of our armed organization will ratify the peace accords and endorse the FARC’s transformation into a legal political movement,” Alape said, announcing the conference shortly after the negotiations produced the deal in a 297-page document covering the rebels’ demobilization, a transitional justice system and reparations for victims, among other topics.- Symbolically important -The conference is set to take place in a brick building the guerrillas hastily constructed amid tall grass, according to a video the FARC posted on Twitter.Ariel Avila of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation said ratification should proceed smoothly.”Nearly 90 percent of the FARC already accepts the agreements,” he said. “That basically means 10 percent must be convinced during the conference.”Political scientist Frederic Masse agreed.”There is no doubt about that, but the event is very important symbolically,” said Masse, a professor at Bogota’s Externado University.He called the conference “the end of a cycle,” but said FARC leaders will still have to ensure the movement’s “cohesion,” explaining the peace deal’s “scope and limits” to the skeptical.The peace agreement must still be approved by Colombian voters in a referendum on October 2 — a step Santos insisted on to ensure the full legitimacy of the process.Recent opinion polls put the “Yes” vote ahead by some 40 percentage points.fpp/grf/jhb/jm

Tags : deal, peace, vote, Yes, campaign, victims, Farc, Colombias

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