Colombia Farc rebels reborn as 'revolutionary' party


Colombia's Marxist FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, speaks during the installation of the National Congress of the FARC in Bogota, Colombia August 27, 2017.

BOGOTA - Colombia's Farc former guerrillas relaunch Friday as a political party, changing their logo of rifles for a red rose after disarming to end a half-century civil conflict.

Farc leader Rodrigo Londono on Thursday announced the name of the new party: the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force.

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The name controversially retains the same acronym and the revolutionary spirit of the communist guerrilla group, which fought a bloody 52-year campaign against the state before signing a peace deal last year.

The party was scheduled to hold a concert to mark its launch at Bolivar Square, near the presidential palace in the capital.

Demobilised and renamed, it now faces a struggle for political acceptance in a country scarred by decades of attacks and kidnappings.

You say Farc

Farc delegates spent the week in a founding congress to choose their political representatives.

The choice of name was the other key item on the agenda.

Some Farc leaders wanted to keep the "revolutionary" element, while others favoured softening the group's image by dropping it in favour of "New Colombia."

In the end, a majority voted to call it in Spanish Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Comun, so it will still be known as the FarcC for short.

The logo for the new party is a socialist-style red rose with a star in its centre above the letters Farc in green.

The former armed group's logo was two crossed rifles under a book.

What's in a name

The Farc acronym is a sensitive point in an already delicate peace process since for many Colombians it is synonymous with the deaths and suffering of the war.

"They are keeping the same acronym because they want to maintain their support base in rural areas," the Farc-controlled conflict zones, said sociologist Fabian Sanabria.

"Doubtless, people expected something different. It is possible that this name from the start will restrict them to representing only a small sector of the population."

A spokesman for the party said an official English translation for its title would be announced.

In its former guise, it was known in English as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Peace and justice

The Farc formed as a communist movement in 1964 from a peasant uprising for rural land rights.

Over the following decades, the conflict drew in various rebel forces, paramilitary groups and state forces.

It left some 260,000 people confirmed dead, 60,000 unaccounted for and seven million displaced in Latin America's longest conflict.

Londono, whose nickname is Timochenko, said the group will advocate "a democratic political regime that guarantees peace and social justice, respects human rights and guarantees economic development for all."

Political challenge

The new party will compete in next year's general elections.

Regardless of how many votes they may win, the peace deal signed with the government last year guarantees the Farc five seats in each of the two legislative chambers for two terms.

Colombians narrowly rejected the government's peace deal with the Farc in a referendum last year.

President Juan Manuel Santos and the Farc tweaked it and the government pushed it through congress.

Timochenko has ruled out the new party fielding a presidential candidate in 2018. But he said it will support a candidate who guarantees peace.

The government has also opened peace talks with Colombia's last active group, the 1,500-strong National Liberation Army (ELN), in the hope of sealing what Santos calls a "complete peace."

Farc leaders and officials warn that remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups are still carrying out attacks in the conflict zones.