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5:02, 10 February 2018

Colombian Rebels Suspend Election Campaign, Putting Peace Into Limbo


Colombian Rebels Suspend Election Campaign, Placing Peace Into Limbo

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TUMACO, Colombia — The deal that ended decades of war in Colombia hinged on a easy formula: The rebels would surrender their weapons, and in exchange, earn the proper to run for office in the country’s democracy.

But on Friday the former fighters said they had been suspending their campaign. Their activists have been getting killed, they said, and threats have been mounting against those who remained — such as their top commander who is running for president.

Although the decision does not send the nation back to war, it does put Colombia’s peace into a sort of limbo. The former rebels’ involvement in this year’s elections was meant to signal an end to decades of political violence and was a pillar of the accords that ended 52 years of civil conflict.

Their sudden departure from the campaign — on the grounds that it is not safe — casts doubt on regardless of whether the conflict is more than however.

“It is a truth that profoundly undermines the most critical peace approach that has taken spot in Colombia,” said Álvaro Villarraga, the director of the Democratic Culture Foundation, a nongovernmental group primarily based in the capital, Bogotá.

The peace accords, signed in 2016, ordered a vast transformation of post-conflict Colombia, which includes provisions for courts to settle war crimes, investments to wean farmers off the coca trade and a sturdy push to establish a Colombian government presence in areas that had been beneath rebel control. The war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the main rebel group recognized as the FARC, left a lot more than 200,000 people dead and several millions displaced. It was the longest civil conflict in the region.

But right after little much more than a year, significantly of the agreement stands paralyzed. The new courts have not begun perform, coca production is still soaring and numerous rural towns do not have a single police officer. The National Liberation Army, a rebel group that did not sign the deal, has stepped up attacks. Public resentment simmers, with some people saying that the FARC rebels got off too straightforward.

And on Friday, the FARC stated it would stop campaigning for the presidency and 74 congressional seats to be elected in May possibly.

“We’ve decided to suspend our campaign activities till we have adequate guarantees” of security, the group stated in a statement. It cited a “coordinated plan” of attacks against FARC campaigners, which includes pictures taken of the houses of activists by opponents, social media threats and the killing of a former fighter on Tuesday — 1 of dozens killed considering that the peace deal was signed.

“Colombia cannot turn out to be a failed state electorally simply because of the enemies of peace,” the former guerrillas wrote in the statement.

For the FARC, it was a turn of fortune for what had been the country’s most feared rebel organization, one that had terrorized Colombians with kidnappings, killings and land mines that still plague the nation. The former guerrilla fighters now locate themselves fearing the voters they are meant to court.

The killing of FARC members also is a reminder of the past: In the 1980s, thousands of members were slaughtered by paramilitary groups when they final attempted to come out of the shadows, forming a celebration identified as the Patriotic Union. That memory, many say, is behind the caution in the present election.

In an interview on Friday, Colombia’s interior minister, Guillermo Rivera, stated that the FARC’s choice was not what the government had wanted to see.

While Mr. Rivera said that former fighters had been killed in recent months, he noted that no candidate had died and that in some cases the FARC had declined protection.

“We will preserve providing the guarantees so they can safely continue campaigning,” Mr. Rivera said.

Yet even though handful of wished to see violence in the election, sympathy for the former rebels was tough to find among commentators in Colombia on Friday.

“The FARC suffered from a guerrilla’s vanity, which consisted of thinking that upon abandoning arms, signing the peace deal and becoming civilians that Colombians were going to cheer, applaud and unconditionally assistance them,” stated Jairo Libreros, a political scientist and columnist in Bogotá.

Mr. Londoño campaigning in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, last month.CreditRicardo Mazalan/Related Press

The United Nations mission accountable for monitoring the peace approach reported final month that 36 FARC members had been killed since the war ended in 2016. Current killings include the circumstances of two activists functioning for the campaign of a FARC congressional candidate who have been found dead on Jan. 17, and Kevin Andrés Lugo, a former guerrilla the FARC mentioned had been killed on Feb. 8.

The targeting of FARC campaigners runs all the way to the leading. Rodrigo Londoño, their former top commander, was attacked by protesters who pelted his motorcade with rocks, on one occasion practically destroying his vehicle. A single prominent Senate candidate, Luciano Marín, also recognized as Iván Márquez, canceled a campaign event this week in the face of violent protests.

Who is behind the attacks is unclear. Mr. Londoño’s operating mate, Imelda Daza, stated in an interview with a neighborhood radio station on Friday that the violence had been instigated by “persons interested in sabotaging the FARC’s campaign.” The FARC also has blamed National Liberation Army rebels.

Mrs. Daza singled out the challenging-line Democratic Center celebration and its spiritual leader, Colombia’s former president, Álvaro Uribe, a fierce critic of the peace approach.

Throughout Mr. Uribe’s tenure in the seat Mr. Londoño hopes to occupy, he oversaw a brutal military campaign against the FARC, and led the campaign to reject the peace deal in an initial referendum in October 2016. Mr. Uribe has denied involvement in attacks against former FARC members.

A lot more seasoned politicians stated that such attacks have been not completely unexpected in a nation where war had been the norm and anger against the rebels remained.

“I consider that no 1 expected that the political transition from FARC’s guerrilla organization to this new movement would be easy or straightforward,” mentioned Iván Cepeda, whose father, Manuel, was killed in 1994 throughout the attacks against the FARC’s Patriotic Union party.

However, Mr. Cepeda mentioned it was important to distinguish among the protests of angered war victims and “methods which are frankly carried out to incite violence,” which he said he suspected had been organized by supporters of Mr. Uribe’s celebration.

Mr. Londoño, the FARC’s presidential candidate, has been operating on an anti-poverty platform. He started his campaign last month in a downtrodden Bogotá neighborhood.

Bespectacled and wearing a suit and tie, he is a far cry from the guerrilla in the jungle fatigues he once donned, and he has represented the FARC’s willingness to move from armed struggle to politics.

But the rebels’ appetite for politics has also offended some.

In August, the group established its political celebration, deciding on a slight alteration in its name that allowed the former guerrillas to retain the identical acronym they utilised in the course of the war. The move enraged several victims groups who stated its leadership appeared unapologetic.

Then in November, Mr. Londoño, who had previously promised not to run for president, reversed himself. His approval rating in polls is barely 2 %, and a lot of Colombians see him as a terrorist.

“He was the face of the insurgency and the most emblematic representative of everything that Colombians hate about the FARC,” said Cynthia J. Arnson, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington.

Mr. Villarraga, the director of the democracy center, mentioned he hoped Colombians would overcome their anger toward leaders like Mr. Londoño and defended his appropriate to campaign.

“All politicians, institutions — and even opinion makers — we need to have to be circling about the FARC now because it is a product of the peace method,” he said. “We must totally have all of the political parties, such as the FARC.”

But some presidential candidates seemed uninterested in that aspiration.

“What can they count on?” asked Germán Vargas Lleras, a candidate who had been vice president although the peace accords were negotiated, in an interview on the W Radio network. “That after 40 years of kidnappings and killings they get received with hugs?”

Correction:&nbsp

An earlier version of this report misstated the name of a nongovernmental group in Bogotá, Colombia. It is the Democratic Culture Foundation, not the Democratic Future Foundation.

Joe Parkin Daniels and Susan Abad contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia.

A version of this post seems in print on , on Web page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Colombian Rebels Suspend Election Campaign, Undermining Peace. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Published at Sat, 10 Feb 2018 02:09:47 +0000


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