Colombia's FARC expels five commanders opposed to peace deal
by Compiled from Wire Services
ISTANBULDec 16, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Compiled from Wire Services
Dec 16, 2016 12:00 am
In a bid to protect peace deal, Colombia's FARC rebels have expelled five commanders for refusing to demobilize and join a peace process with the government aimed at ending more than five decades of war, guerrilla leadership said.
The five commanders, all from units in the country's southeastern jungle, include one former participant in four-year-long peace talks in Cuba.
"Our nation is going through a crucial moment in history. The path to an open peace that goes against the will of the most reactionary sectors of our country should not be hampered by a group of fools," the FARC said in a press statement on Dec. 14 announcing the dissidence of the five guerrillas, according to Colombia Reports.
The expelled commanders are the second group of rebels to declare their opposition to the peace deal under which the FARC convert into an unarmed political party. In July a First Front unit leader and some of his fighters left the group in protest of the deal.
Law enforcement and military officials have expressed fears some rebels will not demobilize and will instead keep control of lucrative coca-growing and cocaine-smuggling operations, joining the ranks of the country's feared criminal gangs.
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said the dissenting commanders and their followers would be pursued in the interests of protecting the peace process. "Those who declare themselves dissidents from the FARC, or who become bandits, are declared high-value targets for the armed forces," Villegas said at an event in Meta province.
The Colombian government has pardoned at least 110 FARC rebels as part of a peace deal to end a 52-year conflict, the justice minister said Wednesday. "I believe around 300 pardons could be granted in all," Justice Minister Jorge Londono told a press conference.
The pardons, as well as an amnesty law currently before Congress, apply only to "political crimes" and not more serious offenses such as killings, rape and torture, he said. All pardons will be reviewed by a judge before taking effect, he added.
The issue of meting out justice has been a stumbling block as President Juan Manuel Santos seeks to end half a century of conflict with FARC.
A modified peace deal, cobbled together after the first version was rejected in a public vote in October, has been signed by FARC leader Rodrigo Londono and President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach an accord.
The deal has been approved by Colombia's Congress and rebels now have six months to move to demobilization zones and hand in all weapons.
Launched in 1964 from the ashes of a quashed peasant uprising, the FARC today has some 5,700 fighters who are preparing to disarm. Another 4,500 members of the Marxist guerrilla group are in prison. Colombia's conflict has killed more than 260,000 people and left 45,000 missing.