Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias Timochenko, former FARC leader, a group considered as a terrorist organization by several countries in the Americas, announced that he will candidate at the presidential elections of Colombia 2018.
Although it sounds worthy of a dystopian tale, the peace agreements between the Colombian State and the FARC, signed last year, have allowed the legalization of this group as a formal political party, granting not only the possibility of participating in the Senate but also to present candidates for the presidency.
FARC History: 50 Years of Armed Conflict
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were formed in 1964. They started as a leftist group with Marxist-Leninist ideology. Around 1940, the communist movement in Colombia was mainly made up of peasants, openly against the national government and armed to defend themselves against their interventions.
What initially was a group of peasants defending their ideals, later became a guerrilla group, and slowly began to cover more territory with the support of the Communist Party. Influenced by the Cold War, the Colombian government at the time decided to end all communist influence in the country.
Then began a period of negotiation between the Liberals, the guerrillas, and the government. Amnesties were granted but also ignored. The murder of two renowned communist leaders within the guerrilla’s ranks caused those who had not yet left arms to take them back with conviction and the foundation of the group. FARC’s goals? Giving power back to the peasants and poor classes of Colombia.
They won supporters (many forcibly) and expanded across the Colombian border, dominating the territory favoring drug trafficking in the area, an issue that only made the state more obstinate in its eagerness to destroy the FARC.
The narcos and FARC, although they worked hand in hand, had different interests. The common enemy was the state, especially because of the policy of extradition to the United States. The struggle between the three parties became so strong that the government financed death squads to end all traces of cocaine camps and guerrilla hostels.
To survive, the FARC attacks grew exponentially. They raided illegal mining, extortion, antipersonnel mines, killed civilians and government figures, used car bombs, kidnappings and a whole series of crimes that gave them the designation as a terrorist group in more than seven countries. This series of attacks caused the displacement of millions of Colombian peasants.
Who is Timochenko?
The leaders of FARC were hunted one by one. Violence reigned in Colombia despite several attempts to end the war, the dead only increased. It is said that in 2001, FARC had 16,000 soldiers, 30% of which were under 18 and many were forced to commit horrendous crimes in exchange for their lives.
The leaders were massively recruiting anyone who had the misfortune to be in their way, but they were losing me quickly, so they had to resume peace talks. For the presidential term of Juan Manuel Santos, the advances had been significant. The two most important commanders, Alfonso Cano and Timochenko, were willing to negotiate.
However, Cano was killed at the end of 2011 by the Colombian Air Force, forcing Timochenko out of hiding and meeting with Santos to formalize the long-awaited peace agreement.
During his participation in the guerrilla, Timochenko was identified as being responsible for thousands of kidnapping orders, homicides, recruitment of minors, terrorism, conspiracy, extortion, drug trafficking, and robbery. He was wanted by Interpol for many years and was described as a terrorist by countries such as Chile, Peru, the US, Canada, Venezuela, and Brazil. They even offered a bounty of up to 5 million dollars for his capture.
In 2012, Juan Manuel Santos and Timochenko traveled to Cuba to put an end to the conflict under the advice of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. The peace agreement, in broad strokes, implied that the FARC lowered its arms, but also received absolute pardon for its misdeeds.
FARC Becomes a Political Party
In 2016, the Colombian people were consulted if they accepted this peace agreement signed in Havana. The vote came back with a peculiar result: the winning option was “no”, but in the areas most affected by terrorism during all these years, they voted “yes”.
Santos’s government was urged to reach an agreement, so they ignored the results of the election “in the name of peace and the rescue of coexistence”. The result was a ceasefire. FARC has now become a political party with Timochenko at the head and announced their official candidacy for the 2018 presidential elections.
In May, the Colombian people will decide if they have truly forgiven this group, however, was peace worth this decision? Should they actually be forgiven for all these years of violence? Will the US accept the possibility of having a former terrorist as President of such a convulsive nation as Colombia? Time will tell if Timochenko and FARC will succeed.