FARC chief Timochenko said Monday he has ordered all guerrillas in Colombia’s oldest rebel group to end extortion practices as the organization is preparing for a peace process.
The FARC has long sustained itself and its armed conflict with the state through all kinds of criminal activity like drug trafficking, illegal mining, kidnapping and extortion.
However, Timochenko and President Juan Manuel Santos signed a bilateral ceasefire a week and a half ago and both are optimistic about a pending peace accord.
According to the guerrilla chief, the proximity of a peace deal has removed the necessity to make money.
“We hadn’t done this before not because of a lack of will but because we need to eat,” said Timochenko.
“We’re almost there and we believe that with what we have we will make it to the end,” the FARC chief added.
Ahead of the peace talks that began in 2012, the FARC already banned kidnapping. The group’s participation in drug trafficking is supposed come to an end once a peace deal is closed.
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The guerrilla chief made no reference to illegal mining.
However, the FARC did commit to fully demobilize and disarm in the event of a peace deal.
While a 100% compliance rate to the demobilization is unlikely, individual guerrillas or guerrilla units that want to continue a clandestine life will no longer be able to count on the support of Latin America’s largest and most experienced guerrilla force.
According to the recent demobilization and disarmament deal, the FARC leadership will cooperate with the Colombian security forces to allow them to assume territorial control over regions where the guerrillas currently are the de facto authority.
The Colombian military has already begun preparations for this monumental task.
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President Juan Manuel Santos said last month that a peace deal should be reached before July 20, Colombia’s independence day.
The FARC did not commit to this date, but according to Timochenko the peace talks have reached a point of no return.
The conflict between the Colombian state and the FARC started in 1964 and has since cost the lives of more than 260,000 Colombians. Millions have been displaced.
Other groups that have since emerged are still active, but are in size hardly comparable to the FARC.