EL DIAMANTE, Colombia – The top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group on Saturday officially opened a conference for ratifying the peace accord concluded last month with President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration.
“The future of Colombia is in your hands,” Rodrigo Londoño, better known by the nom de guerre Timochenko, said in a speech to around 200 rebel delegates gathered in El Diamante, located in the Yari Plains region of the southern part of the Andean nation.
The FARC chief was accompanied by the other members of the group’s top command, including the guerrillas’ lead negotiator during nearly four years of peace talks in Havana, Ivan Marquez.
All of the members of the FARC’s Secretariat were wearing white T-shirts with the logo of the rebel conference and a slogan reading “National Reconciliation, Peace with Social Justice and Advanced Democracy.”
During the week-long conference, the rebel delegates are expected to ratify the peace accord and give their stamp of approval for the leadership’s decision to renounce the armed struggle and transform the FARC into what Timochenko described as a “political movement or party.”
They also are expected to decide on what steps to take following the FARC’s dissolution as an armed organization.
“If our adversaries want to proclaim that they won the war, that’s their choice. For the FARC-EP, our greatest satisfaction will always be having won the peace,” Timochenko said, apparently referring to claims by Santos and the armed forces that the FARC’s military defeats forced it to sit down at the negotiating table.
Agreement on a final peace accord, which includes agreements on land reform, political participation, drugs and drug crop and redress for the victims of the strife, was announced in Aug. 24 in Havana.
A bilateral cease-fire already is in place, and the accord is to be signed on Sept. 26 in the northern Colombian city of Cartagena, with the process then continuing with the guerrilla fighters relocating to 23 Temporary Hamlet Zones and handing over all of their weapons to a UN mission.
The peace deal, however, also must be approved in a nationwide popular referendum on Oct. 2.
Polls indicate voters will approve the agreement and thereby bring a definitive end to more than 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia.