For more than 52 years an internal armed conflict has persisted in Colombia, in which various political and military forces have been involved; the FARC-EP and the Colombian Government, who are two of the most important forces in conflict, are currently in the final stage of a peace process that constitutes a fundamental step towards ending the armed confrontation.
In an interview with the News Agency of the Mexican State (Notimex), Gabriel Angel (@GabAngel_FARC), a lawyer graduated from the National University of Colombia, survivor of the genocide perpetrated against the left wing movement Patriotic Union (UP) and militant of the FARC-EP, spoke about how the organization projects itself towards peace, their political proposals and their perspectives on national reconciliation.
NTX: Will the FARC-EP in their new role as a political party remain as monolithic force or single party? Will they keep the acronym of FARC or change it?
FARC: We’ll have to wait for the conclusions of our Tenth National Conference [This is the maximum decision stance within the FARC-EP]. We want to precise on the fact that the FARC itself has always been a political organization, a communist party, and has always had the idea of forming a broad political movement based on a series of fundamental general principles that draw together a vast amount of Colombians. In this moment, we don’t see the need to change this conception. We will make it happen within legality.
NTX: Will you seek the conformation of a broad front of left wing and independent sectors? Based on what criteria? Are you politically located more towards the left or towards social democracy?
FARC: We could say that we agree with the first part of your question. The criteria could be the transformation of our country into a territory of peace, based on the broadest form of political democracy, the replacement of the pure form of neoliberalism that has been applied in the last 25 years, independence and national sovereignty, Latin American and Caribbean integration, equal rights for women and an end to all discrimination based on gender, environmental protection and biodiversity, among other banners that not only will appeal to traditional left wing groups but even some who are considered center or even right.
The name that we take is not as important as the lesson that Manuel Marulanda [FARC-EP founder] taught us on not letting opportunists take over our conquests.
NTX: Will the political project of the FARC in the post-conflict seek to achieve high positions of public office? In how much time?
FARC: We are not in favor of setting deadlines on these matters. But what we can say is that we have no vocation of losers, our goal is to organize and mobilize the Colombian population to wrest political power to the class that has held it for centuries, in order to create a democratic, just and prosperous country in the shortest amount of time possible.
NTX: What proposals do you have in terms of designing a new electoral system that is more equitable and fair to all political sectors and minorities?
FARC: First of all, the creation of a completely independent and autonomous electoral organism, sufficiently endowed with a spotless plant staff and modern economic and technological resources so that all fraudulent forms that characterize the current system can be eradicated.
Secure electronic voting would have to be considered for votes not to be manipulated in any form. The opposition and minorities should be fairly represented.
In a country where the money from mafias and drug trafficking have taken over the work of political propaganda using dirty forms of corruption, the issues related to the financing of political campaigns should be reexamined.
NTX: How to ensure that the regions have a balanced representation in Congress and during the post-conflict? What expectations do you have for the upcoming regional and presidential elections? Will you present single candidates or coalition candidates?
FARC: We insist that we prefer to talk in terms of post agreements; the economic, social and political conflict that afflicts Colombia will continue to exist and certainly in a much more hectic way, only that it will not manifest itself in an armed form.
The agreements contemplate the creation of special electoral constituencies for the areas that have traditionally suffered the conflict. Through organization, mobilization and the broadest democratic struggle we will work in order to broaden such representation to the maximum.
It is still too early to talk about the upcoming participation in elections, but it is obvious that our aspiration is to contribute to the generation of a great political movement of real alternative nature, and that means thinking about acting well beyond electoral spaces themselves.
NTX: What do you propose to prevent for the illicit crop cultivation areas to be taken over by illegal armed groups linked to drug trade?
FARC: You are referring to paramilitary groups and the successors of some of these. In this regard there is a very comprehensive and accurate agreement with the National Government in the sense that they will be fought with all the power of the State. There are agreed forms of tracking the prosecution of these activities.
It is not that once the FARC-EP is gone from the armed scene the poor people would stay helpless and powerless. We will be there, doing politics, organizing the community, mobilizing them to defend their rights and the compliance of the set of very strict agreements. The agreements have to be read carefully in order to stop making such alarming observations.
NTX: What is the FARC’s proposal for reconciliation in Colombia?
FARC: The signed agreements are there. If their compliance and implementation becomes a reality for Colombia, the hatred and violence will necessarily be removed from the field of politics.
NTX: Why did the FARC-EP decide to negotiate with the Juan Manuel Santos administration? What were the subjective and objective reasons for this determination?
FARC: We could refer to the rooted conception that the FARC-EP has on regards of the political solution, an idea that has always accompanied the formulations about the future of our country. Until February 2002 peace talks took place in Caguan, Andres Pastrana´s [Former president] government abruptly broke the talks, after three years of permanent delay in addressing the topics of the Common Agenda.
Afterwards, Plan Colombia [US military aid plan] took place, and then with Alvaro Uribe [Former President] Plan Patriota and other gigantic military operations were developed with which the Colombian government tried again to annihilate us.
War took on new levels, but even so, they didn’t achieve their goal of finishing off the FARC. When Santos [current president] took office, he started talking about conversations and, despite the intensified war, the government showed certain samples of real interest in creating the conditions to reach a final agreement.
There were no constraints to the discussion; the terms of the process were agreed by both parties in an exploratory period that lasted six months.
The then president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, offered his full cooperation and the Colombian government agreed and facilitated his selfless help. Cuba was also more than ready to support all efforts for peace in Colombia to materialize.
Also read: Exploratory meetings
In our country, like a chorus, and each day with more eco, a wide range of personalities, social, political and popular organizations stood in favor of a negotiated solution to the conflict. Diverse voices within the establishment began to express themselves in the same direction. There was also an international stir in the same direction.
We acknowledged, to say in a certain way, a generalized feeling of annoyance and even repudiation towards the continuation of a confrontation that seemed never-ending. Why not then try and achieve what hadn’t been achieved in the past? That’s how we came to this process.
NTX: What’s the bad, the ugly and the positive aspect of the negotiation process in Havana?
FARC: The ugly thing is to discover how many people and social groups have their souls full of hatred and work towards propagating it to the entire population.
The bad aspect is to find oneself talking with an interlocutor who seems to always have a double standard, one for the peace talks, signing agreements such as the Comprehensive Rural Reform, Political Participation and Solution to the Problem of illicitly used crops, and simultaneously another one for the sectors of great capital, to which it generates business facilities that are contrary to what was agreed during the peace talks, like taking unpopular measures of police and military repression that lessens their fears of social struggle, and continuing to enact plans of forced eradication of illicit crops attacking the weakest link in the chain: the State-abandoned farmer.
Also read: 35 human rights defenders killed in 2016
The good thing is to perceive the enthusiasm for peace that communities that have directly experienced the conflict show, the joy of millions of Colombians in towns and cities because a peaceful horizon is foreseen, something which could imply -if successful- real change in the economic, political and social situation of the country.
NTX: The Final Peace Agreement is irreversible in the short term?
FARC: Everything indicates so. But you should know that the National Government insisted from the beginning on including in the General Agreement of August 2012, which is the basis of the Peace Process, the sentence “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. That means that a last-minute unbridgeable disagreement could break everything down. We hope that this will not happen, but that governmental provision does raise concerns.
NTX: Countersignature of the peace agreements: Why a plebiscite?
FARC: On June 23, a formula was agreed for countersignature. And the Constitutional Court ruled on the feasibility of the plebiscite. But we must not forget that this can only start once a Final Agreement is reached, and that this last stage of the Peace Talks has become complicated, in terms that they want to force us to accept certain formulas based on the urgencies involved with the legal deadlines for convening and holding the plebiscite.