LA VARIANTE, Colombia – Having been with the FARC rebels since he was 10 years old, Emilio has spent virtually all his life as a guerrilla and now, at 45, he’s thinking about how he will close out this phase in the armed group which he says has given him everything.
The son of a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) fighter who was killed in combat, Emilio is one of three generations of the same family who have served in the guerrilla ranks fighting a war they feel was “imposed” on them.
At a temporary camp at La Variante, in the rural part of Nariño province along the Pacific coast, he – along with about 300 other guerrillas – is waiting in the La Playa normalization zone, or ZVTN, to lay down their arms and demobilize, in accord with the peace pact signed between the FARC and Bogota.
“I’ve spent more or less 35 years working with the FARC ... and ... they gave me my first shoes, my clothes, and so I followed them,” Emilio told EFE regarding how he joined the rebels.
Born in Cimitarra, a town in the strategic and wartorn region of Magdalena Medio, the violence there forced his family in 1982 to migrate and settle in Putumayo province, bordering on Ecuador.
“My dad was also a (FARC member),” he said, adding that he himself was part of the FARC in southern Colombia.
“They killed my dad there and later we came here to Nariño,” he said beside a wooden cross marking the grave of “Alvin, the squirrel,” who was the guerrillas’ pet until it died on Jan. 30.
Emilio said that his two sons are also with the FARC.
“It’s like a tradition. You’re reporters, so your children become reporters and that example continues,” he told the EFE team who visited La Variante.
But Emilio said that a life of armed struggle isn’t easy. “The war has been very tough because ... (it’s) come over us and we’ve endured it ... (but) I believe (God) has helped us,” he said.
Emilio still feels that he needs to follow the ideology that has been inculcated in him in the ranks of the FARC, but not in the bush, noting that the political realm will be the new area of struggle.