Former Colombian rebels are returning to mountain strongholds where they once fought to the death, this time to campaign in the first elections held under a peace accord that ended a 50-year insurgency. They were greeted with hugs and red roses as they made their way up the slopes of the Cauca Valley in southwest Colombia. One of them is Pablo Catatumbo, who fought for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia starting in 1973. Now, he is 65 and looked after by a detail of 40 men — some ex-rebels and some former adversaries. Under the peace accord reached in late 2016 that led to the FARC’s disarming, the former rebels are guaranteed at least 10 of the 268 congressional seats up for grabs in the March 11 election. But they can gain even more, so former rebel leaders are out trying to win votes.
… Trailing in the polls, the FARC decided to stop holding large public rallies. The animosity towards them, paradoxically, is strongest in towns that were spared the most by the war. Security has been stepped up for FARC candidates.
Catatumbo told AFP that this bad blood stems from a paid campaign of “political bullying” based on the notion that no one wants to see the FARC in Congress.
Marco Calarca, another former FARC commander, said this campaign is aimed at making people behave “as if the war had never ended and therefore we cannot get into politics legally.” The pain of the 50-year war is still quite raw. But “here people recognize us. They love us because during the years of the war we defended this territory,” said Catatumbo.
Full Article: Colombia’s former rebel leaders now battle for votes.