With a new name, though the same acronym, the FARC – now the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común – elected the party leadership and launched their new logo: a red rose.
The FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, swapped its rifles for roses this week in its first convention as a political party after over 50 years of conflict.
The disarmed guerilla group changed their name to the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (Alternative Revolutionary Force for the Common People) – controversially keeping the same acronym, FARC, which has been synonymous with the country’s bloody past for over half a century.
A five-day conference in Colombia’s capital of Bogotá ended with a party in the city’s main square on Friday. Music from popular artists, including Bob Marley’s son, Ky Mani Marley, closed the event.
People young and old – including ex-combatants – were seen lifting roses in the air and wearing T-shirts with #NuevoPartido written on them.
“We are the party of the rose,” an affiliate shouted on stage.
Former FARC commander Timochenko, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, was welcomed with a huge applause by the thousands who showed up to the event.
During a lengthy speech at the end of the gig, he said: “We leave the weapons to enter politics by peaceful and legal means, we want to build a different country with all of you.
“We do not want a single drop of blood for political reasons, that no mother ever shed tears for her son or daughter violated. Therefore we do not hesitate to extend our hands in sign of forgiveness and reconciliation, we want a Colombia without hatred, we come to profess the peace and brotherly love of compatriots.”
The transition from jungle warfare to a civilian party is part of the historic peace deal signed with the government last year. As part of the agreement, the newly formed party will be guaranteed five seats in the senate and five in the house of representatives.
President Santos has long insisted on the necessity of this type of political participation which allows the guerrillas to give up arms in order to legally participate in politics.
The party’s new logo features a red rose with a star in the middle. Their former logo was two rifles crossed over a book.
The political congress is yet another positive step on the journey towards a lasting peace, but the new party still has a lot of work to do to win over the electorate. Former fighters are facing significant challenges as they try to rejoin society and many Colombians are sceptical about the role that the new FARC will play.
A poll released last month showed that less than 10 per cent of Colombians had faith in the ex-guerillas as a legitimate party.
“I don’t know who is going to vote for a group who have committed such grave atrocities,” said 25-year-old student, Adriana Herrera Uribe.
The guerilla group formed in 1964 to defend the rights of peasants and waged a bloody war against the state – quickly becoming the country’s largest rebel group.
By Mathew Di Salvo