FARC rebels try to reintegrate into civilian life

World Today

With 50 years of conflict over, Colombians will see a wave of former FARC rebels trying to reintegrate into civilian life and looking for work.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports.

FARC rebels try to reintegrate into civilian life

FARC rebels try to reintegrate into civilian life

With 50 years of conflict over, Colombians will see a wave of former FARC rebels trying to reintegrate into civilian life and looking for work. CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports.
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Boris Forero was an 18 year old communist youth party member when a Colombian leftist presidential candidate was assassinated in 1987.

“I was left with the idea that the only way to bring about social and political change is through arms,” said Forero.

A month later he joined the Colombian leftist rebel group FARC. He was captured and spent three years in jail, and then returned to the jungle. In 2005, he voluntarily turned in his weapons after spending 18 years in the rebel group.

For Boris, the challenge of looking for work was finding a job that would allow him to fight for social change without weapons.

With the signing of a peace agreement at the end of 2016, an estimated 7,000 FARC guerrilla members will also disarm and begin looking for work.

Todd Howland from the United Nations says the peace accord has proposes FARC begin to do socially valuable work as part of their reintegration in rural areas.

“If they actually do this work, it helps the level of human rights in that area,” said Howland. “But it does require investment by the state in terms of not only giving people a basic employment but also the tools.”

An added challenge is that social work can also be a dangerous job in Colombia. According a Colombian non-government organization, 117 human rights defenders and social leaders were assassinated in 2016.

But Boris doesn’t give up. Most importantly, he said, if guerrilla members show their willingness to do good work in civilian life, healing will begin more easily.

“I am not indifferent to this society. I took up arms to fight for it, and I will continue in this political fight,” he said. “I think that builds security because that will give their neighbor peace of mind, because he or she won’t see a person who is arrogant.”

But peace comes with a price. As former guerrillas like Boris said, the challenge for the government isn’t just funding this transition, it’s proving to disarming rebels that it can be done without costing them their lives.