PONDORES, Colombia – In a clearing in the northern Colombian mountains, members of the United Nations, soldiers and police are living with FARC guerrillas to supervise the process whereby the rebels will turn in their weapons and demobilize, as set forth in the peace agreement.
The Monitoring and Verification Mechanism camp at Pondores is comprised of UN, government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) representatives and takes up three hectares (about 7.5 acres) in the municipality of Fonseca in the Caribbean province of La Guajira.
“It’s going to be completely successful because of the integration of the parties, because of the commitment to peace and the confidence of every person,” said Argentine Gen. Javier Perez Aquino, the head of the observers for the UN Mission in Colombia.
There are 280 international observers from 14 nations in Colombia: 10 members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and four European countries.
Pondores is reached along a precarious dirt road that a battalion of military engineers has improved in recent days to make it passable.
Soldiers armed with rifles and backed by armored cars at certain spots along the road guarantee security in the area, one of the 20 “Normalization Zones” where the rebels will gather to lay down their arms.
A few kilometers away, dozens of guerrillas are waiting at a “peace camp” to begin demobilizing, a process expected to take 180 days.
Pondores is one of the most well-established camps and provides a model for coexistence between former adversaries in the armed conflict and the UN observers.
The international observer contingent here is comprised of two Salvadorans, a Spaniard, a Chilean, an Uruguayan and a Paraguayan, Salvadoran Lt. Col. Wilmar Gomez said while giving EFE a tour of the camp.
Activities commence each day at 6 am with personal hygiene activities, breakfast and patrols around the nearby area, and part of the time is devoted to transporting to the San Juan del Cesar hospital guerrillas who require medical attention that cannot be provided at their own camps.
One of the guerrillas at the camp told EFE that “we get along very well with the government and UN people,” adding that they had been tasked with carrying out the coexistence mission well “because peace is a commitment of everyone.”