ROBLES, Colombia – Only 24 when he joined the late Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda in the rural militia that evolved into the FARC rebel group, at 76, Miguel Angel Pascuas says he and his comrades are ready to lay down their guns “if the government complies” with the peace accord signed last month.
“If peace is here and the government complies, we are ready to comply without weapons,” he told EFE. “It’s still not perfect, we are penned-up. But the joy will come when the people have and achieve a change.”
Pascuas is staying with other members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a provisional camp awaiting the signal to proceed to designated areas in preparation for demobilization after 52 years of conflict.
Looking ahead to the day when the FARC has completed the transition from rebel army to political party, Pascuas dares to hope for the election of someone like Hugo Chavez, the late leftist president of neighboring Venezuela.
“Colombia is very rich. The people need to struggle for equality, for a social change to make a time of durable peace,” the veteran insurgent said.
As a political movement, the FARC must narrow the gap in Colombia between “the few who have a lot and the many who have little,” he says.
For now, Pascuas prefers to live in the countryside, describing the city as “a danger.”
“There are many thieves, criminals and paramilitaries. Somebody tosses off a shot at you. There are also a lot of people who might look badly on us,” he explains.
Despite the decades of war, Pascuas retains a sense of humor and a soft spot for animals. He has a new puppy, Laika, who sleeps at her master’s side and gets a bath every time she returns covered with mud from playing with the other dogs in the camp.
He recalls the FARC’s beginnings as a self-defense group armed with nothing more than handguns and sticks of dynamite amid the politically motivated strife that still pervaded Colombia following the 1948-1958 conflict known simply as “La Violencia.”
It was only later that the insurgents adopted the ideology of communism in response to the conservative governments and “selfish business owners” of the mid-1960s, Pascuas said.
He has fond memories of the peasants who provided the guerrillas with food and shelter in the early years, though the FARC’s relationship with the civilian population grew strained over the decades of conflict.