It ended almost as soon as it began. 2 weeks after FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño launched a historic campaign to be included among the presidential candidates at this year’s election, the communist leader also known as Timochenko has suspended the campaign following attacks against party leaders and continued violent threats made against the group by protesters and commenters on social media.
In a statement released Friday morning, the FARC stated that “The successive attacks carried out against [the FARC] …show the existence of a coordinated plan, aimed at preventing the political participation of a legally constituted party”.
The tone of the statement suggests that the suspension of the campaign may be temporary and contingent on additional guarantees from the government to secure their right to a free and fair election. “[W]e demand that the National Government make effective the guarantees for the political exercise of the [FARC]; on an equal footing with the other parties and movements participating in the ongoing electoral contest,” the FARC statement went on to say.
FARC leader Timochenko also suggested as much in a tweet late last night saying, “We will continue to assume the candidacy for the presidency with commitment, respect and dedication. We will not respond in the same way to sectors that seek to stir up violence, hatred and war. We committed ourselves to peace in Colombia. We invite healthy debate and ideas.”
Acts of violence against the FARC are not unusual, even following the landmark peace accord signed by the former rebels and the Colombian government over a year ago.
Vice-president General Oscar Naranjo told reporters that, since the peace accord was signed, “[t]here are 12 cases of relatives of ex-combatants who have been murdered, there have been 28 cases of ex-combatants and there have been 10 cases of social leaders associated with the FARC party who have been murdered in recent months”. Killings of prominent FARC members include the slaying of Julián Morales on Tuesday in Puerto Guamo, Bolivar. The murder had allegedly been carried out by members of the ELN; a militia group still at war with the Colombian government.
Public resentment has been high following the passing of the peace accord, which makes provision for 10 seats in congress for the group until 2026. In a referendum on the accord the voters, by a slim majority, chose against peace with the former guerilla group. Campaign events with Timochenko in Pereira, Cali and Armenia – which hit home hardest as it’s a few miles from the FARC leader’s hometown of Calarca– has been peppered with heckling and protests. Even when reporting of Timochenko’s presidential campaign on this site, commenters were chilling in their criticism of the candidate. Commenter ‘Mike’ wrote of Timochenko that “[h]e should be shot dead” to which another commenter, FroDeaux, replied “Amen”.
It remains to be seen whether the FARC, shed of their arms and the former jungle territory they operated in, can begin to change the sympathies of a wounded populace determined not to have them be a part of the political process.