BOGOTA – Some 30 senior figures in the political party formed after the demobilization of the FARC rebel group gathered on Friday to formulate a response to the killings of 135 of their comrades since they signed a peace treaty with the Colombian government in November 2016.
EFE saw Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño, chairman of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, also known by the acronym FARC, arrive for the closed-door meeting along with Sens. Julian Gallo, Victoria Sandino, Sandra Ramirez and Pablo Catatumbo, among others.
Also present was Jesus Santrich, a former guerrilla leader wanted in the United States on drug-trafficking charges, who was sworn-in last week as a member of the Colombian House of Representatives.
Santrich, who was a commander in the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, spent a total of 416 days behind bars before a May 30 Supreme Court ruling that he was entitled to certain protections because a seat in Congress had been reserved for him under the terms of the 2016 peace deal.
The peace accord set aside 10 seats in Congress – five each in the Senate and House – for people to be designated by the mew FARC party.
“We are in an urgent meeting of the direction of the FARC party, with members of the National Political Council to analyze the issue of the safety of our membership in the face of the systematic murders of ex-guerrillas committed to peace,” Londoño said on Twitter.
At least 135 former combatants and 31 family members of erstwhile rebels have been slain since the FARC made peace and began handing over their weapons.
“We are very worried, naturally, by the string of murders, all of this amid the indifference of the government,” Sen. Gallo said, described the killings as a “crime against the peace.”
The conference was convened Tuesday after the murders of two additional ex-fighters, one of them a journalist.
Colombian President Ivan Duque responded to news of the latest killings by ordering the official in charge of implementing the peace accord, Emilio Archila, to work with the police, military and the Attorney General’s Office “to reinforce all of the rings of protection” for former guerrillas.
The AG Office said on June 13 that authorities had identified the perpetrators in more than half the murders of ex-rebels.
The spate of killings has revived memories of the Union Patriotica, a party founded in 1985 as the FARC rebels were engaged in peace talks with the government and exploring the idea of abandoning armed struggle in favor of electoral politics.
The UP fared respectably at the polls in 1986, provoking a campaign of terror by paramilitaries and some elements of the security forces that resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 party members and the destruction of Union Patriotica as a political force.
Members of another insurgency that laid down their arms, M-19, met a similar fate in the 1990s.