BUENAVENTURA, Colombia – FARC guerrillas armed with assault rifles peacefully “took” the registration area of a hotel in the Colombian city of Buenaventura this weekend, checking into rooms for the night like any other guest as they continue on the path to laying down their arms.
The scene, which drew many curious residents to the Hotel Krystal, was played out on Saturday, when 14 male and two female members of the Rafael Aguilera 30th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group arrived in Buenaventura, Colombia’s main Pacific port, in a speedboat from Puerto Merizalde, a town on the banks of the Naya River.
The FARC rebels are heading to La Elvira, one of 26 transition zones established in rural areas for the rebels to gather and surrender their weapons.
La Elvira is in Buenos Aires, a city in neighboring Cauca province.
FARC guerrillas in different parts of Colombia are heading to the zones, where they will start the process of rejoining society.
The Hotel Krystal, located on a road that leads to the port of Buenaventura, was the group’s stop on Saturday night.
The rebels will continue their journey by bus on Sunday, heading to La Elvira.
“We all gave everything we had for the cause, for the struggle to have peace in this country. The important thing is that we are here,” commander Fidel Porras, of the Alfonso Cano Block, told reporters.
The guerrillas leaned their assault rifles against the walls of the registration area and waited for members of the commission monitoring the cease-fire between the FARC and government to call their names.
After spending prolonged periods of time in the jungle, the FARC fighters appeared surprised to be back in civilization.
Porras, who had earlier criticized the slow pace of building facilities in the disarmament zones, was the first rebel to register.
A United Nations official had to step in and explain that the rebels would have single rooms, a perk that seemed to surprise the group.
Once they had registered, the rebels headed to their rooms, holding electronic room cards and television remote controls.
The stay in Buenaventura is just the start of a long process, Porras said.