BOGOTA – Colombia’s FARC rebels, demobilized under a November 2016 peace pact with the government, continued their makeover Friday with the presentation of a new political party that retains the four-letter acronym while replacing the traditional crossed-rifles emblem with a red rose.
Senior members of the group formally known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) held a press conference in Bogota to discuss the structure and agenda of the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons.
The appearance followed a five-day national congress that brought together nearly 1,200 delegates representing the roughly 7,000 former combatants.
“We wish to travel this path with ordinary men and women, the working, wage-earning population, the economically insecure and the handicapped, the unemployed,” long-time FARC No. 2 Ivan Marquez said.
The erstwhile insurgent also spoke of appealing to the kind of people who responded to the message of the late Stephane Hessel (1917-2013), a veteran of the World War II French Resistance whose 2010 pamphlet “Indignez-vous!” (Time for Outrage!) inspired Spain’s Indignados and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States.
Asked about the choice to retain the FARC acronym, Marquez acknowledged that it carries a negative connotation for many Colombians.
“But at the same time, it represents our historic legacy, our revolutionary past, which will not be erased,” he said. “We are going to continue the conflict, but now on another terrain, that of the legal, political route.”
The new party’s 111-member executive committee will reflect Colombia’s diversity, Pablo Catatumbo said.
“There will be a good share of women, ethnicities and all the expressions of the new movement. Our party is democratic. We want to be an example of the democracy that Colombia needs,” he said.
While the committee’s composition has yet to be determined, the delegates to the national congress gave a vote of confidence to the FARC’s now-defunct General Staff, including maximum leader Rodrigo Londońo, better known as “Timochenko.”
Sandra Ramirez, the widow of FARC founder Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda, said the party has still not decided whether it will name a national director or general secretary.
Timochenko, who was absent for the press conference and has been out of the public eye due to health problems, will be on hand for the concert the FARC has organized for Friday night in Bogota as part of launching the new party, Ramirez said.