Former FARC Combatants Who Rebuilt Their Lives After The Peace Agreement In Colombia

Former FARC combatants who rebuilt their lives after the Peace Agreement in Colombia

At the time when the representatives of the Government of Colombia signed the Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), at the end of 2016, Enith Moreno came to light. He had spent a third of his life in hiding. “At that time the guerrilla movement was on the rise, everyone wanted to be a guerrilla, it was the opportunity to change things,” he tells elDiario.es from his home in Medellín.

Enith is one of the many fighters who enlisted as teenagers while as many they were recruited by the guerrillas.

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At that time, Enith’s family of peasant origin lived in the Antioquia region of Urabá, one of the areas hardest hit by the armed conflict. Along with her, two of her brothers participated in the guerrilla organization. According to Enith, at the age of five she was already observing how her father brought food to the FARC fighters in the mountains and witnessed meetings at home late at night. But it was not until 1984 when he took the step and became part of the organization.

For more than 15 years, Enith lived “interned in the mountains”, eating cuchuco, a soup of ground corn and a strain of wheat flour with salt. The daily routine of a combatant like her was based on “guarding day and night”, controlling the territory and the camp, providing firewood and “studying” the regulations of the organization and the news of the day.

In 2000, he left the FARC due to health problems. From there she, her two children and her partner “invented life” working what they could, especially working in the fields. “It was a very difficult stage. We had no clothes, no house, no money,” he says.

They moved through Colombian territory hiding from paramilitarism and fleeing violence. “Nor could we return to the place where we were born, because there everyone knew the path we had taken and that meant a death sentence. So we moved around Colombia. We kept silent, working in the fields with some families who welcomed us and gave us I work, trying to go unnoticed. ”

Even with all the precautions he did not prevent the worst of his fears from being fulfilled, “one day, in one of the farms, the paramilitaries killed the father of my children,” he says.

The talks between the FARC and the government meant a drastic change for her and other comrades who lived in hiding or who were still in the guerrilla organization. Among them are those who continue to miss aspects of ancient life and others, like Enith, who sometimes wonder if it was a good decision to give “their best years of life” to the cause. “The decisions that are made when one is so young sometimes are not the best,” he reflects.

One of the big issues that were discussed in Havana, where the negotiations between the FARC and the government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) took place, was how to guarantee that the ex-combatants could sustain themselves economically. This was one of the fundamental points for the demobilized to remain legal.

For this, the Agreement established a basic income for two years, a single payment of two million pesos and the implementation of the educational component, health, social and institutional links and collective and individual productive projects.

Once the agreement was signed, part of the FARC went to the “Veredales Zones”, transitional spaces where the process of abandoning weapons began. Then, the first step was the accreditation of membership by the organization. With a list of some 13,997 ex-combatants, the path of reincorporation of the ex-guerrillas began and the process towards legality began.

However, the organization did not prove the identity of some former guerrillas due to internal conflicts. They are people who, since they are not accredited or receive endorsement from the FARC, do not have access to aid from the State.

According to Andrés Steppar, director of the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN), 91% of ex-combatants, some 13,200 people, are in the process of reintegration. The rest are unaccounted for. Of this population, the majority receive a monthly allowance that represents 90% of the current minimum wage, about 195 euros.

María Páez alias Maricela, 36, lives in the Antonio Nariño Territorial Space, 134 kilometers from Bogotá, along with 200 other people, including ex-combatants, friends and family. It is one of the 24 spaces where around 2,500 ex-guerrillas live and are settled in the areas where the organization previously operated. Currently, these places produce coffee, craft beer, fish, meat, vegetables and fruits.

She belongs to the Tejiendo Paz cooperative where victims and ex-combatants make clothes. They recently launched their own brand: Avanza. “When I got here I didn’t know how to sew. They gave us training and donated a Singer [nombre de la marca de una maquina de coser]This is how we started to make the first garments, “says Maricela who, like Enith, joined the FARC when she was 14 years old.

When the Agreement was signed, Maricela was still in the FARC. From one day to the next his life changed. Although she clarifies that she is now focused on her son Julien and on carrying out the clothing project, sometimes she misses “the sense of unity and collectivity that existed in the organization.”

Political participation and the promotion of community life were some of the objectives of the guerrillas in Havana. Within the framework of the Agreement, the network of Social Economies of the Common (Ecomún) was created, with the objective of building solidarity economies in Colombia.

As of mid-year, the reincorporation agency had approved more than 3,000 productive projects that benefit half of the ex-combatants. But, according to the information obtained, many are still not sustainable and do not meet the vital needs of ex-combatants.

“We encountered many bureaucratic obstacles so that our project could be approved, in addition, the State has not yet paid its part. We have short contracts, production is still very limited,” says Maricela.

This is one of the points that the Ideas for Peace Foundation pointed out as worrying. “The dissonance between the times of the Agreement and the times of reality”. The lack of budgetary definition, the dilatation of the processes or the lack of security of the ex-combatants are aspects that show a deficit management.

For several of them, living in a former reincorporation space is safer than doing it in indigenous reservations, Afro-descendant communities or rural areas where hundreds of ex-combatants live. These are areas, even today, marked by the presence of armed groups, drug trafficking networks and strong militarization.

Since the signing of the Agreement to date, 285 ex-combatants have been assassinated, in a context of increased violence that has resulted in 1,229 assassinated social leaders and human rights defenders, according to Indepaz.

For Senator Iván Cepeda, an expert in peace negotiations and victims’ rights, Duque’s administration is closer to burying the Agreement than to its compliance. “What there is is a rhetoric of concern but not concrete actions that point to a comprehensive and satisfactory implementation,” he says in dialogue with elDiario.es

Enith had to wait 16 years for the signing of the Agreement to start over. In 2017, he moved to Medellín to start the reincorporation process. At first he lived it with joy, “many of us who had been in the throes of a war that seemed to have no end, we began to meet,” he says.

She founded the Women’s Market Building Peace where, thanks to the support of the UN, they sell products such as coffee, beer and other foods produced by other ex-guerrillas. He survives on his monthly veteran allowance, which he barely has enough to live on. “If that month I pay the services and the rent, the basket is very tight,” he says.

Her dream is to be a community worker and contribute every day to Colombian society. At the moment, she is launching a venture with other former women members: Mujeres Origen.

Enith’s story, like that of many, is marked by war. Enith is part and victim of the armed conflict that killed half of her family. But also, it is a story of resilience and surrender.

“In a farm in Urabá where 11 old-fashioned siblings were born, this woman emerged, with a history full of painful crossroads, joys and learning that accompanied these long 50 years. Despite the difficulties and murders of our companions, we continue betting on peace and reconciliation in Colombia “, he synthesizes.

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