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"We will abandon even the last rifle"

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'Carlos Antonio Lozada', member of the FARC secretariat, explains the position of this insurgent group on the concentration points, the ceasefire, the abandonment of arms and transition into policy.

Semana.com: On March 23, in addition to frustration because there was no final agreement or ceasefire, the Government's statements left one feeling that they are messing around about abandoning weapons ...

Carlos Antonio Lozada: That is not true. This does not correspond to the truth. More than six weeks ago we delivered our proposal to the technical subcommission of the government, regarding the abandonment of weapons, in which there is absolutely no doubt about what will happen to the weapons. No one can believe that after we agreed a mechanism for monitoring and verification we would be able to play with that. Our proposal is serious and consistent and there must be no doubt that the FARC will abandon even the last rifle.

Semana.com: What is the proposal?
C. A. L: At some moment we will agree, it is not known whether all at once or in stages, all weapons will be handed over to a third party, whether a group of countries or an international organization. All under verification by the international component of the tripartite monitoring mechanism that has already been agreed.


Semana.com: The Government believes that once you reach the concentration points you must leave guns in a container under surveillance of verifiers. Do you share that view?

C. A. L: We believe this has to be done in stages. A first step will involve the destruction of explosive and unstable materials, which will be done even before reaching the concentration points. A second step will involve storing artillery weapons and those for collective use, such as machine guns and mortars. We will keep weapons for personal defense for our security while we are in camps located within the concentration points until we will leave them gradually, by groups, as progress on a number of outstanding issues is reached, until the last rifle is abandoned.

Semana.com: What are these outstanding issues?
C. A. L : There are outstanding issues in all agreements, such as the election of judges of the Special Peace Tribunal and the terms and moment in which the amnesty law will come into effect. We must go synchronizing this and in this regard there is a very clear proposal on the table.

Semana.com: The Government believes that you should not carry weapons in the concentration points.
C. A. L: There is no difference of opinion on this. Outside the camps and within the zones, the guerrillas shouldn't be carrying weapons or wearing uniforms. I insist that weapons are not the cause of discord.

Semana.com: So what was it that bothered you in the document presented by the Government and that 'Timochenko' considered a call to surrender?
C. A. L: The document that created the problem addresses three issues: ceasefire, abandonment of arms and a part of the reintegration process. What annoys is the word choice, calling to surrender, to submission. Something that is not consistent with the moment and the stage the talks are at. In addition, for what refers to the ceasefire, agreed elements are bypassed, such as what are the concentration points for.

Semana.com: And according to what has been agreed, what are they really for?
C. A. L: Well, they are to verify the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, to abandon arms and to begin the process that allows us to make the transition from a rebel movement into a legal political movement. The concentration points are not to confine the FARC or to isolate them from civil society.

Semana.com: Please explain ...
C. A. L: This is a peace process that seeks to allow the exercise of politics without weapons, for our part and the State. Therefore, it is unthinkable that while a definitive ceasefire is in effect, the FARC would remain isolated from the civilian population, when we are precisely talking about a transition from an armed movement to a legal political organization.


Semana.com: But that's precisely the problem... doing politics among the population, with rifles ...
C A. L: As I said, the proposal contemplates that the guerrillas would not leave the camps neither armed nor uniformed. They will leave in civilian clothes and unarmed. The concentration points are not to concentrate the guerrillas, but the weapons, under the supervision of the UN. We shouldn't deceive ourselves on that. The thing is that the Government wants to hide the real causes of the problem.

Semana.com: What are they?
C. A. L: The fear that we go out to discuss our viewpoints on the peace process and the country. That we influence the political situation. And that is contradictory because the peace process should enable us to entry into politics.

Semana.com: Are you not being very conspiratorial?
C. A. L: The government is a prisoner of two fears: of the far right, which opposes the process, and of the prospect of us becoming a real political alternative to the regime. The government wants the war to end, but does not want us to challenge the ruling class in the leadership of the country.

Semana.com: But until there is no definitive abandonment of weapons there will be a combination of forms of struggle ...
C.A.L: There is no combination because we are making a transition from a 50-years-long war and that does not happen overnight. The process of abandonment of weapons requires full guarantees, we cannot enter politics among the ongoing murders of social leaders. The State must be consistent in its proposal; there are still some risks for us to enter in politics, also, there is the possibility that once the weapons are under international surveillance we may be going on developing the tasks of the peace process and enlistment to become a political movement.

Semana.com: De La Calle said he would not allow gray areas ...
C. A. L: It is not about creating gray areas; it is about understanding that this is a transition. We could also argue that while the last paramilitary has not disappeared we won't have sufficient security guarantees. But we have understood that the dismantling of those groups requires time and various steps. The same will happen with the transition the armed forces will have to go through, from a conception of counterinsurgency struggle to one of sovereignty and territorial defense. That will not be a process which will happen overnight.

Semana.com: Do you have clear that the sub-commission does not make decisions?
Of course. High active commanders of the armed forces and guerrilla commanders are gathered, trying to build a technical agreement of military nature, on ceasefire and abandonment of weapons. It is a document that has been built in the middle of a very difficult and complex work.

Semana.com: And that document is already available to the table?
C. A. L: It has not yet been handed in and we are clear that it should be reviewed by the table. But what puzzled us is that in between, when the job is not yet finished, there is a wish to change what has been agreed.

Semana.com: The country was convinced that the issue of ceasefire was well advanced ...
C. A. L: I had the same conviction. In the last round of talks we managed, together with the generals, to find a gateway to such a thorny issue as concentration points. We agreed on three very important definitions and that made us feel we were close to an agreement.

Semana.com: What are these consensus?
C. A. L: How the withdrawal of the guerrillas to concentration points will be; how the deployment of military forces will take place, in order to achieve this mobility. And the objectives and characteristics of the concentration points.

Semana.com: Will abandonment of arms be completed by 31 December 2016?
C. A. L: That will depend on the Negotiation Table. That is not a unilateral decision, it is linked to commitments taken by the Government on security guarantees not only for the FARC, but for the territories and the people. Also legal security. If we synchronize these aspects, the final abandonment of weapons will happen.

Semana.com: Another point of contention is the lifting of the arrest warrants. The Government believes that the rebellion ends with the abandonment of weapons while you think it ends with the signing of the agreement ....
C. A. L: Because that's the way it is. After we sign the agreement the confrontation is over. There is an irreversible decision there to cease rebellion. The Public Order Act itself says that arrest warrants will be lifted to those who reach the concentration points.

Semana.com: Yes, but only inside the areas ...
C.A.L: We believe that in this situation of transition a certain number of members of the FARC - still I could not say how many - must be able to go out and carry out tasks of the process. One of the points of debate we have had is that we do not consider fair, nor does it fit with such a process, that members of the Government attend forums and debates all the time to present their vision of the peace process and we are denied that possibility. That makes the process of education in the country very undemocratic.


Semana.com: But the government does not rule out those specific exits… what it does not seem to like is to have 10,000 fighters moving around without a definite abandonment of weapons ...
C.A.L: That of seeing fighters moving up and down will not happen. But if they are there or if they leave, must be our political decision, not an imposition by the Government or the will of an official. It is a question of dignity. Now, the FARC leadership will ensure that these exits are to fulfill tasks of the peace process. Obviously all of this will be subjected to the monitoring and verification mechanism.

Semana.com: How is it that you want immediate amnesty after signing the agreement?
C. A. L: The Special Jurisdiction for Peace established an amnesty law, what needs to be clarified is which crimes are related to rebellion. According to IHL, the Government is obliged to give the widest amnesty to combatants, not just guerrillas, also the agents of the State, at the end of hostilities.

Semana.com: You mean that you agree with General Rito Alejo del Rio?
C. A. L: Is not that I agree. This is what International Humanitarian Law says. It is the law and the law operates, whether you like it or not. Once the agreement and the cessation of hostilities are on, there must be an amnesty. You can not transform this in an object of barter. You cannot go back to the refrain of 'if you behave well...'

Semana.com: It may well be that IHL says that, but an amnesty while weapons are not permanently abandoned takes from you any political legitimacy ...
C.A.L: All crimes, as they are not war or against humanity, should be amnestied. An amnesty law does not delegitimize; all the contrary, it recognizes the political reasons for the armed uprising.

Semana.com: Are guerrillas ready to abandon arms?
C. A. L: The trips to camps to hold pedagogy meetings have been one of the most important events that have occurred over the last four years, and which have helped a lot to build trust. In the case of the insurgency it was unthinkable that members of national leadership would be able to move with the consent of the Government and the security provided by the Armed Forces. Those meetings have not only seen the participation of the members of the FARC who are in Havana but also of members of the leadership of the blocks who participated in the teaching process.

Semana.com: And what have you found?
C. A. L: We have found full support for what we have done in Havana and that fills us with confidence and assurance that we are doing things right. It is encouraging to see that those guys who were committed to risk their lives at war, today are thinking about how to raise their political and cultural level, in a context where the key factor will no longer be bullets, but ideas.

Semana.com: And middle rank officers? Those who handle money caches, those with power?
C. A. L: I don't know where the money cache is. That is another sophistry. There are no officers who have become rich.

Semana.com: But there are cases ...
C A. L: I will not deny that there have been cases of corruption, people who have flown with money. But we are leaving the confrontation of 50 years exactly as we entered it: with what we carry in our backpacks.

Semana.com: Even 'Paisa' and 'John 40'?
C. A. L: They are part of the FARC and when time comes, the country will know them and hear from them.

Semana.com: On March 23 there was expectation at least for a roadmap announcement. Is there a draft already?
C. A. L: We delivered a roadmap that is in the hands of the president. The roadmap contains the milestones to be developed, almost all contained in sections 3 and 6 of the agenda and other issues that have been left pending. We should turn that into a schedule.

Semana.com: You have a great thirst to enter politics. Do you not think you need a greater recognition of your mistakes?
C. A. L: The policy will provide scenarios where we can assume those responsibilities, analyzing them in the context in which they occurred. And we will do it, with all integrity and dignity, with respect for the victims.

Semana.com: What about at personal level? You, Carlos Antonio Lozada, what do you have to confess?
C. A. L: This is not something personal. Everything happened in the context of a confrontation and policies of the organization. The personal is left to our own conscience. What I can tell you is that I sleep well.

Taken from www.semana.com, translated by www.farc-epeace.org