Colombia: FARC Suspends Political Campaign Amid Safety Concerns

Colombia’s Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons, FARC, the former rebel group turned political party, have temporarily suspended their presidential and legislative campaign due to increased threats and attacks on its members.

Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timochenko, the former head of the rebel group, who launched a presidential bid in January, has been confronted by angry and at times violent crowds. Some have hurled insults or called him a “Murderer!” while others have thrown eggs and other objects at him on the campaign trail.

During a campaign event on Wednesday in the city of Cali, Londoño was booed by crowds. The protesters became so uncontrollable that the riot police, known as ESMAD, had to intervene to protect FARC political candidates and members.

Paramedics treated Londoño for altering blood pressure as a consequence of the turmoil, according to Caracol Radio.

Meanwhile, Victoria Sandino, a former rebel soldier turned senatorial candidate, was informed that Herbin Hoyos, leader of a victims’ group of the one-time insurgent group, had mobilized people to disrupt FARC campaign events.

“For the moment we have decided to suspend campaign activities until we have sufficient guarantees,” said party leader Pablo Catatumbo. “We ask all parties and political movements, without exception, to reject these type of provocations.”

Catatumbo said the suspension would run until the government is able to provide adequate security for the candidates.

With some sectors of the Colombian society reluctant to embrace the historic peace accord signed between the Colombian government and the former rebel in 2016, the current FARC political group has opted to discontinue campaigning until their safety can be assured.

Two FARC political candidates were killed last month while campaigning in Antioquia province.

“Wilmar Asprilla and Angel de Jesus Montoya were in the municipality conducting a community meeting and preparing a meeting to support the candidate for the house of representatives of Antioquia,” said a FARC statement in January.

The FARC has also expressed concerns that right-wing paramilitary gangs or drug traffickers may assassinate their members. Similar attacks took place during the 1980s when over 5,000 targeted killings of FARC members took place when the group attempted to start a political party called the Patriotic Union.

Since the agreement was signed between FARC and the Colombian government, 50 people associated with the group have been killed in 44 separate attacks, including 28 former fighters, 12 family members, and ten party activists, according to the attorney general’s office.