Leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, and the country’s second-largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army, ELN, have gathered in Bogota to celebrate the National Congress of Peace, which seeks to advance the peace treaty agreed to by the Colombian government and the FARC last year.
Speaking at the celebrations, the FARC’s chief peace negotiator Ivan Marquez said that the congress will be important to honoring the historic peace agreements, work against hatred and move the country towards reconciliation after more than 50 years of civil conflict.
“The peace agreement is more than 310 pages signed by the parties. It is the birth of a transforming power that can be used to fill the homeland with humanity, inclusion, social justice" stressed the insurgent leader,” Marquez said at the celebration.
“Whoever dares at this critical time to raise the flag of hatred and violence is because has lost his mind,” he added.
Despite being denied entry to the Colombian Parliament, Marquez and chief negotiator of the ELN, Pablo Beltran, were both due to attend the opening ceremony of the Congress in the parliament before their entrance was blocked. Leaders of the two groups were surrounded by other social movements for peace in Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota’s main square.
Marquez also urged President Juan Manuel Santos' government to make progress with its peace talks with the ELN, which remains an active insurgent group. The government has been in negotiations with the ELN in Quito, Ecuador, and both sides appear confident of reaching an agreement similar to the FARC.
Earlier this week, the FARC was officially recognized as a political party, while other key parts of last year's peace agreement are slowly being rolled out. While the FARC has a peace deal with the government and the ELN edges closer to one, the country is still plagued by violence, particularly in rural areas.
Active right-wing paramilitary groups, such as Los Urabeños, continue to exploit the power vacuums created when FARC troops began demobilizing. Los Urabeños does not currently engage in peace dialogue with the government is still deemed a terrorist organization.