On 29 August, the former FARC commander known as Ivan Marquez announced that he and several other former guerrilla leaders are taking up arms again.
The announcement came three years after the signing of Colombia’s landmark peace deal, that Marquez claimed had not been respected. Marquez says he will lead a faction that will unite FARC dissidents who are dissatisfied with the Peace Accords and will also seek an alliance with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which has grown in prominence since the FARC’s demobilisation.
The director of the Social Department of the Colombian bishops’ conference, Mgr Héctor Fabio Henao, who took part in the peace negotiations with the FARC, told The Tablet:
“The fact that people who were at the negotiation table and signed the peace agreements is certainly a challenge for the process of peace-building. The good news is that the majority of the ex-combatants are continuing in the process of reintegration. There are all sorts of questions, military, financial and structural, that make it very difficult to say how this break-away FARC group will develop in the future. For the moment the most important thing is that we make progress in the full implementation of the peace agreements and that there are guarantees for the lives of the ex-combatants and community leaders.
“In the communities and regions affected by the conflict with the FARC there is an atmosphere of hope that that the plans for land reform and support for agriculture will be put into practice, as was agreed in Havana. This is a very important factor for the shape of the future and peace-building: transformations in the structure of land ownership, ensuring that rural people have access to land and will be able to make a success of farming, and that these regions are integrated into the political and economic structures of the country.
“The Social Department of the bishops’ conference continues to work very closely with the rural communities on projects that have a great impact, not only economically but also socially. We are also present in the areas where the former fighters have assembled to support their reintegration into the community and offer them the possibility of a decent life so that they can rediscover a purpose to their lives.
“Reconciliation is the great task facing Colombian society, which is deeply divided and polarised in its attitude to the search for peace.”
The Colombian Episcopal Conference released a statement denouncing the use of violence to resolve Colombia’s conflicts.