BOGOTA (Reuters) – The Colombian government said on Thursday that it was pressing ahead with the reintegration into society of demobilized FARC guerrillas, and that they should not be dissuaded from continuing in the process by attacks on former rebels.
The Andean country signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, ending the leftist rebel group’s part in an armed conflict that has left 260,000 dead and millions displaced.
Bearing the same FARC acronym, the rebel group turned into a political party which opposes the government of President Ivan Duque and insists that implementation of the peace deal is advancing too slowly.
The deal permitted 13,000 former FARC members to return to civilian life. Implementation of the peace agreement has faced challenges, including the decision of several former commanders – who argued the deal was not being fulfilled – to return to arms, and the killings of over 250 former rebels across Colombia.
The government blames FARC dissidents who rejected the 2016 agreement, as well as other illegal armed groups involved in drug trafficking and illegal mining, for killing the former FARC guerrilla members.
“We need (ex-combatants) to continue within this process so that the levels of violence… the country experienced in the past never return,” Emilio Archila, the presidential adviser for implementing the peace deal, said at a news conference, adding that the overall level of violence had fallen across Colombia since the deal was signed.
The government has approved 2,300 individual and group projects involving 6,045 demobilized FARC members, at a cost of $17 million, Archila said.
Colombia’s army and police force protect 24 areas where hundreds of ex-guerrillas and their families live, Archila said, adding that there are 230 personal protection schemes for former FARC leaders.
“The objective is that there are zero deaths (of ex-FARC members) and no attacks against them,” Archila said. “We are working so that the process of reincorporation can never be undone.”
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)