Former guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono was once one of Colombia’s most-wanted men. Now he is a presidential contender. The graying, spectacled man best known by his alias Timochenko launched his bid Saturday to lead the government he once battled from the jungle with a celebratory campaign kickoff featuring giant posters, colorful confetti and even a catchy jingle. “I promise to lead a government that propels the birth of a new Colombia,” he said. “A government that at last represents the interests of the poor.”
Breaking with the traditional campaign launch from a five-star Bogota hotel, Timochenko initiated his presidential bid from one of the city’s poorest, most crime ridden neighborhoods in a clear nod to the underprivileged class whose votes the ex-combatants are hoping to win. Hundreds gathered in the parking lot of a community center decorated with banners featuring a smiling Timochenko sporting a neatly trimmed beard, angular, thick-rimmed glasses, and a crisp blue shirt.
“Timo president,” a new campaign song played from loudspeakers. “For the people.”
The campaign is another historic step in transforming the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia into a political party following the signing of a 2016 peace accord ending more than a half-century of conflict. The nation’s once-largest rebel group is now known as the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, keeping its Spanish FARC acronym, and presenting a slate of former guerrillas as candidates.