FARC disarmament completed; para terror goes on

Colombian leaders declared an official completion of the FARC disarmament process in a June 27 ceremony at Mesetas, in Meta department. UN monitors symbolically padlocked the last containers of weapons turned over by the guerillas, as FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño AKA "Timochenko" announced "Farewell to arms, farewall to war!" President Juan Manuel Santos presented Timochenko with a gold-plated shovel made from an old machine gun as a symbol of peace, and a cloud of yellow butterlies was released (a reference to Gabriel García Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude). But the UN special representative for Colombia acknowledged that the "re-integration" of the  10,000 former FARC fighters into society will be difficult. Days after the ceremony at Mesetas, Jean Arnault told the UN Security Council that FARC members have "a deep sense of uncertainty" about their economic future and physical security following their disarmament. (AP, June 30; FT, EFE, June 27)

Under terms of the Final Peace Accord with the FARC, the government has just created a new Elite Peace Corps within the Colombian National Police force to combat armed bands and surviving paramilitary networks that would seek reprisals against demobilized guerillas. The corps, made up of some 1,000 troops backed up by judicial investigators, will also be charged with combatting the ongoing wave of assassinations of social leaders across Colombia. (Prensa Rural, June 18; El Espectador, June 17)

Four FARC guerillas and eight of their family members have been killed over the course of the disarmament process. The most recent was Rigobel Quesada, shot by unknown gunmen June 21 at Agua Azul vereda, San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá department. He had just a week earlier been released from prison under the new "transitional justice" program established by the peace process (Prensa Rural, June 22; Semana, June 21)

June 7 saw the murder of Bernardo Cuero Bravo, attorney for the Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), and a leader in the movement to recover usurped lands in Atlántico department. He was killed when gunmen fired on his house during a social gathering at Villa Esperanza, Malambo municipality. Colombia's Judicial Police (DIJIN) have since announced the arrest of a suspect in the killing—a rare example of fast action in such a case. (El Espectador, June 16; WOLA, June 9)

Colombia continues to have the second greatest number of displaced persons of any country on Earth. Only Syria, with 12 million displaced, surpasses Colombia's 7.7 million, according to the UN Refugee Agency. It is followed by Afghanistan with 4.7 million displaced, Iraq with 4.2 million, and South Sudan with 3.3 million. (El Colombiano, June 20)