De­spite doubts, FARC rebels turn in last of weapons to seal peace deal

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY CHRISTINE AR­MARIO

ME­SE­TAS, COLOM­BIA | Colom­bia reached a ma­jor mile­stone on its road to peace Tues­day as left­ist rebels re­lin­quished some of their last weapons and de­clared an end to their half-century in­sur­gency.

The his­toric step was taken as President Juan Manuel San­tos trav­eled to this de­mo­bi­liza­tion camp in Colom­bia’s eastern jun­gles to join guer­rilla leaders as they be­gin their tran­si­tion to civil­ian life.

In a short, sym­bol-filled cer­e­mony, United Na­tions ob­servers shut and pad­locked the last con­tain­ers stor­ing some of the 7,132 weapons that mem­bers of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia have turned over the past few weeks at 26 camps across the coun­try. Yel­low but­ter­flies were re­leased and an AK-47 con­verted into an elec­tric gui­tar rang out plain­tive chords in honor of the long con­flict’s vic­tims.

“By de­posit­ing the weapons in the U.N. con­tain­ers, the Colom­bians and the en­tire world know that our peace is real and ir­re­versible,” Mr. San­tos, win­ner of last year’s No­bel Peace Prize, told an au­di­ence of for­mer rebel fight­ers dressed in white shirts with cuffed hands shaped in a heart and a Span­ish hash­tag read­ing “Our only weapon are words.”

Though hundreds of FARC caches filled with larger weapons and ex­plo­sives are still be­ing cleared out, the U.N. on Mon­day cer­ti­fied that all in­di­vid­ual firearms and weapons, ex­cept for a small num­ber needed to safe­guard the soonto-dis­band camps, have been col­lected.

“In a world con­vulsed by old and new forms of vi­o­lence, by con­flicts whose pro­tag­o­nists ap­pear ir­rec­on­cil­able, ... a suc­cess­ful process con­struct­ing peace in Colom­bia is also rea­son for hope and a pow­er­ful ex­am­ple for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” said Jean Ar­nault, head of the U.N. peace mis­sion in Colom­bia.

The day put Colom­bia one step closer to turn­ing a page on Latin Amer­ica’s long­est-run­ning con­flict, which caused at least 250,000 deaths, left 60,000 peo­ple miss­ing and dis­placed more than 7 mil­lion.

After years of thorny ne­go­ti­a­tions, the rebels reached an agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment last year to give up their weapons and tran­si­tion into a po­lit­i­cal party. But im­ple­ment­ing the ac­cord has been slow. The ini­tial deal was nar­rowly re­jected in a na­tional ref­er­en­dum, the na­tional leg­is­la­ture has strug­gled to pass laws im­ple­ment­ing the re­vised ac­cord, and op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers are threat­en­ing to over­turn key as­pects of the agree­ment if they win the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion next year.

Mr. San­tos’ gov­ern­ment suf­fered a black eye on an­other front Tues­day when its top anti-cor­rup­tion of­fi­cial was ar­rested Tues­day in Bogota on money laun­der­ing charges filed in fed­eral court in Mi­ami. The Mi­ami Her­ald re­ported the charges against Luis Gus­tavo Moreno Rivera, the na­tional di­rec­tor of anti-cor­rup­tion in Colom­bia in­clude charges he flew to the South Florida city to col­lect bribes in a shake­down of a Colom­bian politi­cian who was se­cretly help­ing U.S. au­thor­i­ties.

Mr. Moreno Rivera and Leonardo Luis Pinilla Gomez, 31, an attorney prac­tic­ing in Colom­bia, were charged with one count of con­spir­ing to laun­der money to pro­mote for­eign bribery, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Trea­sury De­part­ment.

In Me­se­tas, Ro­drigo Lon­dono, the FARC’s top com­man­der, com­plained about the bu­reau­cratic, le­gal and po­lit­i­cal “traps” in a sternly worded speech in which he called on the gov­ern­ment to live up to its end of the bar­gain and not sim­ply re­joice at see­ing its for­mer com­bat en­e­mies dis­armed.

He ques­tioned why imprisoned rebels who were amnestied six months ago re­main in jail and com­plained about the state of the Mar­i­ana Paez de­mo­bi­liza­tion camp where the cer­e­mony was tak­ing place. It was sup­posed to con­tain con­crete hous­ing units with run­ning wa­ter, kitchens and elec­tric­ity, but in­stead has been likened to a refugee camp with rebels liv­ing un­der plas­tic tarps.

Still, he and other rebels showed no out­ward sign of re­gret­ting their de­ci­sion to aban­don the bat­tle­field.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

President Juan Manuel San­tos (sec­ond left) and the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia head Ro­drigo Lon­dono (third left) greet the baby of a rebel cou­ple to com­mem­o­rate the com­ple­tion of the FARC dis­ar­ma­ment process in Bue­nav­ista, Colom­bia.

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