Colombia’s demobilizing FARC guerrillas will be sheltered in pre-demobilization camps while the government tries to revive a peace deal with the Marxist rebels that was struck down in a referendum early this month.
Across the country, some 26 of these “temporary pre-grouping points” are set up as a provisional replacement of the 27 camps where the FARC was supposed to be demobilizing and disarming by now.
While finding a way out of the crisis caused by the referendum result, the government will provide food, shelter and health services in these camps until Congress ratifies a renegotiated deal.
However, the suspension of the peace process triggered by the referendum spurred fears guerrillas could return to criminal activity to sustain themselves or abandon the group altogether.
The measure to prevent this was announced by Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas on Friday, a day after the United Nation’s mission chief in Colombia said the FARC would be moving into 50 or 60 pre-demobilization camps.
The UN currently has observers in Colombia to monitor a bilateral ceasefire between the government and the guerrillas, and to oversee the effective demobilization and disarmament of the rebel group that has been fighting the state since 1964.
Until Thursday, the guerrillas had maintained defensive positions amid fears rival armed groups or dissident elements within the military could take advantage of the chaos to attack FARC units.
The traveling of the heavily armed FARC guerrillas to the pre-demobilization camps will be carried out in coordination with the military and the UN.
While moving to the designated areas, the guerrillas will take specific routes to evade populated areas and highways.
Once in the pre-demobilization zone, security measure similar to those meant for the demobilization and disarmament camps, will be put in place.
While the FARC’s demobilizing guerrillas and militia members are staying in their camps, its leaders will be renegotiating the peace deal in Havana, Cuba with government negotiators.
Over the past two weeks and a half, President Juan Manuel Santos has been talking to and received proposals from numerous opponents of the peace deal as it stood, in order to amend the deal and increase support for it before sending it to Congress for ratification.
Once Congress is done, the peace process should be resumed and the 6,600 FARC fighters and approximately 10,000 militia members will be able to move into the formal demobilization and disarmament camps as previously agreed.
Once disarmed, a guerrilla or militia member will either be pardoned and take part in a reintegration program or be ordered to appear before a transitional justice system if suspected or convicted of war crimes or other crimes against humanity.
The organization as a whole should be transformed to a legal political party.