In September, the FARC terrorist organization will officially become the FARC political party in Colombia and FARC leaders are determined not only to join politics but to change the organization’s image.
During negotiation of the Havana Peace Accords in 2016, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos often used the word “peace” to his advantage. He called the negotiations the “peace process”, and intimated that any Colombian who was against the accords was against peace. This, despite continued fighting after the accords with FARC dissidents as well as the dozen other criminal and terrorist organizations that continue to operate within the country.
However the message was successful, and soon the FARC began to adopt it. Colombia’s civil war with the FARC claimed 220,000 lives over a span of decades. The FARC funded their side of the war through the sale of narcotics, kidnapping, extortion, and assassinations. On its face, the idea that the group would carry the mantle of peace is seems absurd.
But FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timochenko, has stayed on message and continued to press his group’s association with peace.
Queremos construir un partido a muchas manos y muchas voces. Que la diversidad sea premisa y la paz el propósito inclaudicable.
— Rodrigo Londoño (@TimoComunes) August 22, 2017
“We will build a party from many hands and many voices. Diversity is our premise and peace is our unfailing purpose“, he wrote on social media platform Twitter.
On the group’s official Twitter account, gone are the messages of revolution and the videos of campfires in the jungle. They’ve been replaced by messages that try to erase the past and present the group as peaceful and fighting for the rights of the poor.
Nuestro #NuevoPartido propondrá políticas públicas para reducir la pobreza y la desigualdad. ¡Un gobierno que dignifique a los humildes! https://t.co/7GV8c0EVmQ
— COMUNES 🌹 (@ComunesCoL) August 22, 2017
“Our new party will propose public policies that reduce poverty and inequality. It will be a government that provides dignity to the humble!”, was posted on the twitter feed yesterday.
The message, though, has been polluted by the group’s staunch support for Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro and his crackdown on democracy in Colombia’s neighbor.
Rodrigo Granda, whose Twitter profile says that he is a “social transformer forced by the state’s persecution to join the FARC”, has produced a series of videos and social media messages to enforce the FARC’s new message. But his tweets also explicitly back Venezuela.
Chávez y Maduro ayudaron a firmar la paz para Colombia. Ahora desde aquí se conspira alentando la guerra civil en venezuela.¡Qué paradoja!
— Rodrigo Granda Escobar (@RodrigoGCOMUNES) August 23, 2017
“Chavéz and Maduro helped Colombia to sign the peace accords. Now from there they conspire to feed a civil war in Venezuela. What a paradox!”, Mr. Granada wrote on his Twitter feed early this morning.
Though the FARC are not expected to win many votes in the 2018 election, they are guaranteed 10 seats in Colombia’s congressional body. The guarantees are independent of how many votes that they receive. The seats are guaranteed for 8 years.
The FARC’s strategy is to rebrand their organization as the standard bearer of peace and champions of the poor, and to do so over the next 8 years. During that time, they are betting on greater vote turnout from Colombia’s poorer areas, and that the country will forget the brutal 55-year civil war.
Time, and votes, will tell if Colombia’s memory of the war persists.