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New Political Party Formed to Uphold the Peace
In fulfilment of commitments made as part of the Final Peace Agreement it signed with the Government of Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) has now handed over all its weapons to the United Nations and ceased to exist as an armed organization. From August 27 to September 1, a historic Founding Congress was held in Bogotá in which the FARC officially transformed from a political-military organization to a political party, Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force) — FARC that will be registered with the country’s national electoral authorities.
The retention of the familiar acronym FARC recognizes the organization’s accumulated history and revolutionary political traditions and makes clear that its members are not defensive at all about their past as they move into this new phase of political struggle.
The FARC plans to contest elections at all levels and will seek to build a broad coalition of all those committed to ensuring that the Peace Accords are fully implemented. It has given the call for a transitional government of national reconciliation. As part of the Final Peace Agreement, the FARC is guaranteed ten seats in the Colombian Congress (five in the House of Representatives, five in the Senate) for the next two electoral periods (2018-2026). Showing the formidable force of the new party, the Congress was held at the Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada Convention Center in Bogotá and attended by 1,200 delegates representing members of the FARC-EP as well as 300 national and international guests and observers plus hundreds of representatives of national and international media organizations. Plenary sessions and some other proceedings of the Congress were open to the press and live-streamed on the internet.
The Congress opened with messages of greetings sent by political parties and other organizations from around the world. A video message from the National Liberation Army (ELN) sent from Ecuador where the ELN is currently engaged in its own peace process with the Colombian government was the first to be presented. Among the invited guests who delivered greetings at the opening session was a representative of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba who said his party would immediately open official relations with the new party.
FARC‑EP leader Timoleón Jiménez (Rodrigo Londoño) delivered the official opening address, emphasizing that without losing sight of the many challenges and difficulties ahead, celebrating the historic founding Congress publicly and in the capital of the country represented a real victory, something he said was “unthinkable” a few short years ago.
In his speech Jiménez said that becoming an exclusively political organization and carrying out its activities by legal means did not mean the FARC was in any way renouncing its ideological foundations or project for society. “We will continue being as revolutionary as the Marquetalians [peasants who took up armed self‑defence against Colombian state violence in the countryside around Marquetalia, Tolima and founded the FARC in 1964 ‑‑ TML], we will hold on to our Bolivarian flags and the freedom-loving traditions of our people to fight for power and lead Colombia to the full exercise of its national sovereignty, and for the creation of people’s sovereignty,” he said. “We will continue fighting for the establishment of a democratic political regime that guarantees peace with social justice, respect for human rights and economic development with well‑being for all of us who live in Colombia.”
“As we have always done,” he said, “we will respond to our adversaries on one or the other extreme of the political spectrum with deeds, without the need of getting into complicated debates. Our best argument will be the masses organized and in motion in the most diverse scenarios, facing the regime and the system with real skill.”
Central Political Report
The Central Political Report to the Congress was delivered by Iván Márquez, who led the FARC-EP Peace Delegation at the negotiation table in Havana. He said the war had been imposed on the FARC, but they never considered armed resistance as an end in itself, making numerous attempts over the years to seek a political solution which finally came to fruition with the Final Peace Agreement negotiated in Havana.
“The peace we have attained is not a perfect peace, inasmuch as it is a negotiated peace; it is the peace of the continuation of social conflict and of the continuity of our aspirations and aims which we have never renounced, nor will we renounce by using exclusively political means. It is a peace based on agreements, in our opinion minimum and basic, to make progress in overcoming the original causes and the persistence of the armed uprising, and above all, to offer and leave to Colombian society a legacy that opens up the possibility of initiating a process of political, economic, social and cultural democratization that, if it materializes, will forever transform the life of society as a whole and open avenues for the well-being and good living (buen vivir) of the large majority.
Marquez said starting to get the Peace Accords implemented, achieving the reincorporation of the guerrillas into civilian life and beginning legal political activity would all involve lengthy processes and many interrelated challenges. All must be seen and understood as contentious areas, affected as they are by the social and class conflicts inherent in the capitalist social order, he said.
The report also addressed the importance of political power for enforcing the Agreement reached in Havana which touches all aspects of Colombian life, and ensuring the peace is maintained: “Our political strategy has as its basis and reference our aspiration to contribute to forming a new political and social power, to transforming and overcoming the existing social order. In developing this aim, we see our political action as the mechanism for contending for state power, including on the one hand access to representation and government positions at different levels, and on the other, the creation of a new social power ‘from below’ by all the various social sectors.” […]
“Not only because it is a commitment derived from the Agreement, but because we cannot be indifferent to either the presidential election or the formation of the new Congress, under the circumstances our proposal for a transitional government assumes particular relevance.”
Márquez said it was essential to ensure there are favourable conditions for the implementation of all the accords: “We will not tire of saying that the agreements are not for the FARC-EP or the political party that will emerge from it in this founding Congress; they were conceived to benefit the whole of Colombian society and in particular the poor and dispossessed in the countryside.”
Márquez emphasized that a key feature of the accords still not implemented involves the release of all FARC-EP political prisoners. Over a thousand remain in jail despite the Amnesty Law being passed and approved almost nine months ago.
During the Congress, delegates discussed new statutes for the party, as well as its platform and program, and worked in different commissions, some portions of which were open to the press and live-streamed. Delegates also elected the party’s National Council consisting of 111 members. In a communiqué issued following its first plenary session held September 2-3, the National People’s Council announced the appointment of a 15-member National Political Council, with Timoleón Jiménez named president of the new party.
The National People’s Council said it reaffirmed “the spirit of unity of the new party … and the need to move towards a transitional government of national reconciliation.” It also reaffirmed the words of Timoleón Jiménez at the opening session of the Congress: “We have to be fully aware of the extent to which we must address the nation, without dogmas or sectarianism, unrelated to all ideological ostentation, with clear and simple proposals.”
The communiqué ended by expressing appreciation for the bilateral ceasefire agreement reached by the Colombian government and the ELN on September 4, calling it “a step towards the peace in Colombia we all dream of, and a manifestation of the parties’ commitment to the different sectors of civil society, which have made the triumph of peace its banner.”