Starting at the bottom: former FARC guerrillas book first election victories

(Image: Colprensa)

The FARC on Monday announced its party’s first electoral victories since the former guerrillas laid down their weapons in 2017.

The demobilized rebels already took part in the 2018 congressional elections, but without success. The local elections allowed the FARC party its first electoral victories as the former guerrillas are slowly entering politics.

The former rebels’ political party took part in the elections with 308 candidates, 111 of them ex-combatants, who aspired in 23 departments to mayors, councils, assemblies and community action boards.

While the ex-combatants’ electoral impact was low as expected, they did manage to secure three mayoral positions in the departments of Bolivar, Cauca and Putumayo flying under the banners of other parties.

The FARC’s tiny but significant electoral victories

The FARC itself obtained two seats in district councils in the capital Bogota.

“We have two representatives in working class district councils in Bogota, Luceris Segura in Cuidad Bolivar and Marino Grueso in Bosa. They will construct dignified life in the districts,” the FARC said on Twitter.

“This was an important exercise for our people. We had never participated in this type of election, it was interesting to make proposals with the communities, this is our commitment to peace,” FARC senator Victoria Sandino told local media.

“Although it is not a high result for a city like Bogota, it represents a lot for the party,” political scientist Santiago Londoño of the Javeriana University told newspaper El Colombiano.

From bullet to ballot box – the FARC’s struggle towards political participation

Gradual political integration

One major victory for the former guerrillas was the election of Guillermo Torres, a.k.a. “Julian Conrado,” in Turbaco, a town located near Caribbean tourism hotspot Cartagena.

Endorsed by the leftist Patriotic Union and Humane Colombia parties, the demobilized guerrilla became the first FARC member to enter politics through a popular vote.

And he did so convincingly. Torres obtained 20,000 votes, more than half of all votes cast in Turbaco, a small town in the northern Bolivar province,

FARC member to become mayor after winning first election since peace deal

Another significant success was that of Marino Grueso in the municipality of Guapi, in the department of Cauca who was elected mayor with the backing of a coalition of leftist parties including the FARC.

The third success was former combatant Edgardo Figueroa in the municipality of Puerto Caicedo in the southern Putumayo province for the Independent Social Alliance (ASI) party.

Peace process priority: normalizing political participation

While the FARC party directly will count with little success, its very participation in the elections represents major progress for Colombia’s peace process.

As part of the 2016 peace deal with former President Juan Manuel Santos, the FARC was guaranteed five of 108 seats in the senate and another five of 172 in the House of Representatives between 2018 and 2026.

The challenge now for the party is to normalize its participation in politics and prevent a mass killing similar to that of the leftist Patriotic Union party, which was all but exterminated after a 1985 deal.

Throughout the peace process, the FARC has faced relentless political and violent opposition.

At least 158 ex-combatants have been assassinated during the peace process, according to the United Nations.

More than 80 demobilized guerrillas have been murdered since President Ivan Duque, whose party fiercely rejects the peace process, took office last year.

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