The survey of 10,015 former rebels found that there are 54 Venezuelans, 16 Ecuadorians, eight Brazilians, two Chileans, one Argentine, one Panamanian, one Dominican, one French and one Dutch in the ranks of the group who is currently undergoing a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process.
According to a professor at the university, it is normal that citizens of neighboring countries become involved in the ranks of rebel groups as internal armed conflicts often spread to their environment.
“In the Colombian case it is obvious that it was expanding towards the Andean region and therefore the largest numbers of foreigners are from Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil , that is to say the environment in which the conflict began had influence,” said Alejo Vargas to the media.
The U.N. special representative in the South American nation Jean Arnault told the U.N. Security Council last week that that one of the biggest challenges will be the reintegration of the former FARC guerrillas into society due to their “deep sense of uncertainty” about their physical security following their disarmament and their economic future.
The results from the “Characterization of the FARC-EP community” survey support this view with a massive variation in the levels of education and skills among the respondents, 77% of whom were men, while 23% were women, of whom 168 are pregnant.
The results indicated that only 57% have studied at elementary school level, 21% secondary school, 11% did not study at all, while 8% studied the vocational average and 3% higher or university education.
Within the rebel group, there are doctors, lawyers and engineers and even some that doctorate degrees. However, 10% of the former combatants can neither read nor write.
Vargas emphasized the fact that many of the former guerrillas had empirical knowledge about medicine and finance and one of the challenges will be to find a suitable manner to put these skills to use during the reintegration process.
In addition to lack of formal education and training, the survey revealed that 77% of the respondents do not have a home to live in with 60% of them being of peasant origin.
The results also indicated that 3,305 ex-combatants suffer from some form of physical limitation, mostly related to visual (38%), cardiac or respiratory problems (18%), moving parts of their body (16%) and catching objects with their hands (10%).
These physical limitations will also present a unique challenge as the government begin to put measures in place to reintegrate the former combatants into Colombian civilian life.
Paramilitary groups have already warned they would kill any former guerrilla they find in civil society, while Colombia’s citizens have yet to forgive or forget the thousands of war crimes committed by the FARC.
Additionally, a number of demobilized and disarmed guerrillas and their commanders will have to appear before a transitional justice system to respond for their crimes.
If convicted, the war criminals will not go to prison, but be imposed “restricted liberties.” This could mean convicted FARC war criminals could be detained inside the camps while carrying out reparation activities for the towns and individuals they victimized during their 52-year-long war against the state.