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  • FARC leaders Ivan Marquez and Timochenko during the opening of the group’s historic congress in Bogota, Colombia.

    FARC leaders Ivan Marquez and Timochenko during the opening of the group’s historic congress in Bogota, Colombia. | Photo: Reuters

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The FARC guerrilla group, now incorporated into civilian life, will set the foundation for its future in politics.

The FARC has begun its Congress in Colombia to become a political party, after completing the disarmament plan, as part of the peace agreement to end more than five decades of internal conflict.

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The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia began a week-long conference ending Sept. 1 with a massive public event in Bolivar Square in the historic center of Bogota.

"We will transform ourselves from now on into a new exclusively political organization, which will exercise its activity by legal means. Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timochenko, and top leader of the FARC said during the opening. "This does not mean that we give up our ideological foundations or project of society.

"It is not a matter of longing to turn our eyes to the past but to draw from it the experience with aiming to build a better future for our people," Timochenko said.

The leader who reportedly arrived a week ago from Cuba, where he had undergone medical treatment, said that the event was historical, since it was the first public congress by the organization, and it was held in the capital.

This is "a real victory, unthinkable years ago. We have great challenges and many difficulties ahead of us," Timochenko said. "Peace will have to be a true reality in Colombia, a beautiful task awaits us."

Among the messages of support from political parties and organizations around the world, the Colombian National Liberation Army sent a video to express their joy, with a message from their top leader Pablo Beltran. The ELN, the second largest guerrilla in Colombia after the FARC, is currently in talks with the government to reach a peace agreement.

The common people genuinely express their hope and optimism: the "Angel of Peace," present in the Congress of #NewParty

"We must address the nation without dogmas or sectarianism, with clear and simple proposals": message from @TimoFARC in Congress #NewParty

"This constitutive congress is a tribute to the memory of those who fought in the @FARC_EPueblo for a better country, for a #NewParty"

Meanwhile, the FARC has changed its name tentatively to the "Revolutionary Alternative Force of Colombia," maintaining the acronym that has identified the group throughout its history.

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"We don't want to break ties with our past. We have been and will continue to be a revolutionary organization," Ivan Marquez, a leader of the FARC said last week.

The Congress will decide the final name of the party and will define the political program and road map it will follow.

Some 1,200 members attended the event at the Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada Convention Center in Bogota and were joined by about 200 international guests and 400 journalists.

The FARC has also announced plans to seek a 2018 election alliance with the Colombian Communist Party, less than a year before the country's presidential election.

Two weeks ago, the United Nation's first monitoring mission as part of the Colombian peace process ended its term with the removal of the last container of arms from FARC demobilization camps. According to the U.N., 900,000 cartridges had been destroyed in 25 of the 26 military zones.

With the FARC demobilized and disarmed after 52 years of armed struggle, its approximately 7,000 guerrillas and 4,000 militia members will now continue their reintegration process, which includes educational and work programs.

Meanwhile, Felix Antonio Muñoz Lascarro, known as Pastor Alape, a negotiator for the FARC said that the group has "been exhaustive in the presentation of the information" in relation to its assets that it has registered. According to the documentation delivered to the government, the registered assets amount to US$330 million, which includes real estate, Colombian pesos, U.S. dollars, weapons, cattle and horses, gold, among other valuable items.

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