After 52 years of war, Colombian rebels lay down arms

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has agreed to hand over the last 40 percent of their arms to the United Nations by June 20, following through with a peace deal signed last year with the government. 

United Nations mission based in Colombia/AP
A member of UN monitoring mission for the Colombian peace process holds a weapon handed over by rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, as part of last year's peace agreement at the La Elvira temporary camp in Buenos Aires in southern Colombia, Tuesday, June 13, 2017.

The leader of Colombia's Marxist FARC rebel group told Reuters on Thursday that all the group's weapons will be handed over to the United Nations by June 20 as planned, part of a peace deal signed with the government to end more than 52 years of war.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) need to give up the last 40 percent of their arms, as agreed last year with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. Nearly 60 percent of their arms were handed over by Tuesday..

"We have taken the political decision. We respect the agreement and we will implement it, whatever it takes," FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, said in an interview.

Under the accord, rejected in a public referendum but pushed through by congress, the FARC will become a political party and most fighters will receive amnesty after explaining their actions publicly.

Mr. Londono said the FARC were discussing internally the name of their future political party, which could be ultimately decided at a FARC congress in August.

"We are working with the date of August, the middle or the end of August. It could also be the beginning of September," he said, declining to say which options for names were on the table.

"The Congress will decide all these things ... democratically," he said.

Londono was speaking after discussing the peace process together with Colombian foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin, in a rare joint public appearance outside Colombia by a member of the government and a FARC leader.

Asked on stage by Norwegian foreign minister Boerge Brende what the main stumbling blocks were for the peace process, Ms. Holguin said that the key was for Colombian farmers to feel they would be better off cultivating legal crops rather than coca, the crop used to produce cocaine.

"We must be able to give farmers the possibility of earning a living legally, instead of cultivating coca. We must substitute crops and remove the landmines," she told the audience.

Colombia ranks second after Afghanistan on the list of countries with the most landmines, according to the NGO International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

"We are in a very difficult phase. Applying the accord is often more complicated than doing the deal in the first place," she said.

Asked the same question, Londono said that reintegrating guerrilla fighters in society was key. Also, "we must remove violence from the exercise of politics," he said.

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