Colombia’s former FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono marked the evolution of his rebel army into a political party at a concert put on for thousands of supporters in the capital Bogota.
“Long live peace!” shouted the crowd, as FARC members on stage displayed banners reading “Welcome to political life.”
The former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose political party will be called the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, ended its part in a decades-long war that has killed more than 220,000 people under a 2016 deal which granted amnesty to most of its fighters.
After handing in its weapons and entering politics Londono’s Marxist movement will now try to form a political coalition in time for the 2018 elections.
But the decision by the group to preserve its famous FARC Spanish acronym raised eyebrows, given many Colombians associate the word with decades of bloodshed.
Whether the ex-rebels can convince Colombians, many of whom revile them, to back the new party remains to be seen.
‘‘We will have to go in stages, we cannot begin to build a pyramid from the top. Our first step now is to present to Colombia our political party, its strategic programme and our proposal for political action,” Londono told his supporters.
The FARC will hold 10 automatic seats in Congress through 2026 under the terms of the accord and may campaign for others.
He said the party would focus on fighting corruption and poverty, especially in rural areas, and that politics would not be easy.
The FARC’s often old-fashioned Marxist rhetoric strikes many as a throwback to their 1964 founding, but concrete proposals for reforms to complicated property laws could get traction with rural voters who struggle as subsistence farmers.
“We don’t want one more drop of blood for political reasons, we don’t want any mother to spill tears because her children suffer violence,” Londono said.
“That’s why we don’t hesitate to extend our hands in a gesture of forgiveness and reconciliation. We want a Colombia without hate.”
FARC leaders have repeatedly expressed fears that members could be targeted for assassinations in a repeat of the 1980s killings of some 5,000 members of the rebel-allied Patriotic Union party, which grew out of a failed peace process with the government.