Many Colombians believe rebel group FARC has only surrendered half of its weapons after government claims that were denied by the United Nations, and are now exploited by the war crime-stained political opposition to the country’s peace process.
Just months before a Truth Commission that is part of the historic peace deal between the Colombian State and the FARC, the country’s citizens are flooded by debunked claims and disinformation by the government, the FARC and the hard-right opposition alike.
The latest rumor that is going around on social media and has permeated the public agenda is that the FARC has only surrendered half of its weaponry.
This faux controversy began on March 17 when Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas claimed “there is an inventory of 14,000 weapons of the FARC,” which was subsequently confirmed by president Juan Manuel Santos.
Ya se tiene un inventario de 14 mil armas de Farc, de esas son cerca de 11 mil fusiles: #LCVillegas
— Mindefensa (@mindefensa) March 17, 2017
Ya se tiene un inventario de 14 mil armas de las Farc que próximamente pasarán a manos de @MisionONUCol para garantizar una paz estable.
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) March 17, 2017
It is unclear which inventory the minister and the president were referring to as, according to the peace deal, the FARC would surrender its weapons inventory to the UN, not its former enemy, the Colombian military, which like the FARC is facing tens of thousands of accusations of war crimes.
UN denies government claim
The UN has sent hundreds of observers to Colombia to oversee the peace process between the two parties who were at war for 52 years until signing a ceasefire and a peace deal on September 23 last year.
The UN mission chief Jean Arnault, subsequently denied the government claim, saying on March 29 the FARC’s list contained only 7 thousand registered weapons.
"Estamos en 85% de armas marcadas y registradas. Y esperamos llegar a las 7mil armas registradas este fin de semana". Jean Arnault
— Misión ONU Colombia (@MisionONUCol) March 29, 2017
Last week, the UN said the 6,803 FARC guerrillas “have completed surrendering to the UN the 7,132 armed that were registered,” certifying that Colombia’s oldest and largest guerrilla group was no longer in the possession of arms.
The UN, the military and the FARC continue recovering and detonating hundreds of weapons caches hidden in the country’s jungles and mountains of which so far 81 have been either destroyed or retrieved.
Alleged war criminals fueling rumors
The peace process in the war-torn country, however, has long been opposed by a hard-right minority opposition led by former President Alvaro Uribe, who is expected to be called to respond for some of the armed conflict’s worst war crimes before a transitional justice system that is part of the peace process.
The former president responsible for the killing of at least 4,000 civilians was among the first to call out Santos’ “lie,” while subsequently claiming it as true to argue “only half [of the FARC’s weapons] are surrendered.”
La mentira de las armas, y entregan m mitad pic.twitter.com/XQStsHMQvt
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) April 7, 2017
Uribe subsequently explained the “justifiable disbelief,” claiming “first military intelligence of the armed forces talked of 40,000 weapons and then 19,000. Then the president talked about 14,000 and now the compromise is the surrender of 7,000” weapons.
In spite the UN’s consistent claim the FARC’s inventory consisted of approximately 7,000 weapons, a new myth was born, further drawing public attention away from the real challenges faced by the ongoing peace process.
The land of the false positives
Both Santos and Uribe have become infamous for inventing or inflating statistics to the extent that, according to the prosecution, thousands of citizens were assassinated, effectively inflating the military’s kill count with more than 40% in 2007 when Uribe was president and Santos defense minister.
Additionally, after more than half a century of mutual and contradictory war propaganda and failed government promises, many Colombians don’t know who or what to believe.
With the Truth Commission and the Transitional Justice Tribunal set to come into force, the country is likely to continue to be overwhelmed by false claims, distorted realities and disinformation.
Meanwhile, the fragile process to end more than half a century of political violence and armed conflict continues and the country of 49 million with 7.5 million surviving war victims continues to struggles with reality.