LA PLAYA, Colombia – The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is convinced that peace is better than war, one of the guerrilla group’s most feared commanders said in an interview.
Henry Castellanos Garzon, alias “Romaña,” made the remarks to EFE, saying the rebels’ weapons were now silent and the armed conflict had come to an end after 52 years.
“It’s now a commitment of the Colombian people to continue with the peace process, and the guerrillas realize that peace is better than war,” he said in La Playa, a rural area of the southwestern municipality of Tumaco that is one of the 26 gathering points for FARC fighters preparing to hand over their weapons and demobilize.
Castellanos gained notoriety in the 1990s for allegedly orchestrating mass kidnappings on highways, a practice known as “pescas milagrosas” (miraculous catches).
During Wednesday’s interview, he called on the government to follow through on its commitments under the peace agreement to ensure a sustainable end to the decades-old conflict.
He said a key section of the peace deal was one laying out the steps for comprehensive rural development, stressing the importance of immediately beginning the process of formalizing land titles to small and medium properties.
Mass formalization of these properties, among other things, is seen by many experts as necessary to improve rural citizens’ access to credit and technical assistance and avoid dispossession.
He also called for progress with illicit crop substitution projects and for the Colombian Congress to approve the so-called Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which he said was the central component of the deal.
The JEP is to deal with all crimes committed during the armed conflict and extend amnesty or pardons for those of a political nature.
It will also mete out sanctions ranging from non-custodial sentences to prison terms in the case of crimes not eligible for amnesty, including genocide, kidnapping and torture.
Castellanos said the FARC was holding up its end of the bargain in the peace process by gathering in so-called Temporary Hamlet Zones for Normalization and beginning the process of turning over its weapons to a United Nations monitoring mission.
He added that the government now needed to follow through on its commitments in the wake of last November’s signing of a revised peace deal by the FARC and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration.
“In reality, to date, since the agreements were signed four months ago, nothing’s been fulfilled. The accords haven’t been implemented, and that’s what we’ve demanded of the government,” Castellanos told EFE.