MEDELLIN, Colombia – Hundreds of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) militants began on Thursday a march from the Colombian city of Medellin to the capital Bogota to join a protest against the violence that has claimed the lives of about 234 of the ex-rebels since the peace deal came into force.
Some wore white T-shirts that read “For life, for peace,” while others waved white and Colombian flags at the beginning of their journey of more than 400 kilometers, which is expected to take days.
“Those of us who are going for peace are more (than those who perpetrate violence),” shouted the ex-combatants, who started the march on foot from Francisco Miranda School, where they spent the night.
The next part of the journey was made in Chiva from which they shouted slogans in defense of life.
In the afternoon, the ex-combatants arrived in the municipality of Marinilla, in the northwestern department of Antioquia, where they will spend the night and continue their trip to Bogota in the coming hours. They plan to arrive on Monday.
“Today, we join the national march… since they are killing us. We are going to take the words from Antioquia to Bogota, to tell the State, the Colombian government, that we are being killed,” said Manuel Antonio Gonzalez Benitez, known in his time as a guerrilla as “Elmer Arrieta,” who was the head of the 18th Front of the FARC.
One of Gonzalez’ sons was one of the ex-guerrillas killed in December in a reincorporation zone of the Ituango municipality, in Antioquia.
Another group of ex-guerrillas started a “For Life and For Peace” march to Bogota to reject the violence on Oct. 21 in the municipality of Mesetas, in the central department of Meta.
It was organized following the death of two former combatants: Juan de Jesus Monroy, a reincorporation leader in Meta, and his bodyguard, Luis Alexander Largo, who were gunned down on Oct. 16 near Mesetas, according to FARC.
Similarly, small groups of former rebels are marching from departments such as Valle del Cauca, in the southwest of the country; Norte de Santander, which has the main border crossing with Venezuela; Arauca, a troubled region in eastern Colombia, and Huila, in the south.
According to the latest report by the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres before the Security Council on the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, “the unrelenting violence against former combatants continues to take a toll on the reintegration process and the consolidation of peace.”
The document, published on Oct. 2, detailed that so far in 2020, 50 former FARC guerrillas have been killed, two of them women.
“In 2020, 30 percent of the killings have been committed near new reintegration areas, which are located mostly in isolated rural regions,” the United Nations noted.
The report highlighted that, in response to these attacks, in July, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace ordered several state institutions “to convene the relevant security entities and implement the mechanisms for the protection of former combatants.”