Former FARC rebels seated in Colombia’s new Congress per 2016 peace plan

World Today

Outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called for the protection of the 2016 peace agreement with FARC rebels as ten former members of the group take up seats in Congress.

Outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for the protection of a fragile peace agreement when the new Congress took office on Friday. The peace deal, signed in 2016, ended decades of civil war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army, or better known as FARC, and ten former members of the group took seats in Congress as part of the peace plan.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue looks at what direction the legislature is likely to take. 

History was written when new members of Colombia’s congress were sworn into office as ten former rebels of the FARC guerrilla group, which is now demobilized, formally entered politics after laying down their weapons. 

The former rebels’ entry into politics were allowed as part of a 2016 peace agreement which allowed FARC to form a political party and were also given fives seats in each house through 2026.

“The implementation of the peace agreement is the tool that we will use to push for better livelihoods for Colombians,” said Sandra Ramirez, a FARC Senator.

Jairo Libreros, a political analyst, also pointed out another historical first — a large division in the political parties with agendas that oppose each other.

“During the presidential elections, the leftist candidate got eight million votes,” Libreros said. “We are going to see that reflected in Congress because there are going to be two large left-leaning leaderships.”

President-elect Ivan Duque’s Democratic Center party is the most influential party in the new congress and the right-wined party is also the largest in the Senate and second largest in the House of Representatives. But some claim their opposition to the peace accord could mean a difficult implementation and potential changes to the agreement. 

Several representatives from other left-leaning political parties, including FARC, had met and laid out plans to form a coalition that will oppose President-elect Duque. 

“We will be establishing a plan to defend the peace agreements,” said Angela Robledo “We will be establishing a plan to defend the peace agreements – we believe in negotiations as the way out of social conflict.”

However, the historical moment is not without controversey as one of FARC’s elected representatives, Jesus Santrich, is facing an extradition request by the United States. 

Santrich is in jail and has been accused of participating in drug trafficking after the agreement was signed. But FARC claims the case is a setup to sabotage the 2016 peace accord.

Another FARC member, Ivan Marquez, announced he would not fill his seat in congress in protest to Santrich’s detention. There is no word yet on what will happen with these two congressional FARC seats.