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Friday, 03 March 2017 00:00

"The State must withdraw its weapons from domestic politics" Carlos A. Lozada

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Julián Gallo Cubillos, known as "Carlos Antonio Lozada" is 55 years old, a quiet voice that evokes hope. He has been in the FARC guerrilla for 38 years and was present at the failed 1999 peace talks in Colombia. In this new stage of dialogues he headed the technical subcommittee for the end of the conflict where he came face-to-face with members of the military forces he faced in the war.

Lozada is now in charge of the process of decommissioning of weapons and in an interview for Contagio Radio, he expressed what this means for a member of the FARC, the procedures and the scope of this irreversible historic moment that begins.

CR: Since we were at the 10th Guerrilla Conference in Yarí, we realized that guerrillas had their weapon almost as their permanent companion, what does the decommissioning of weapons process mean for the FARC?

Carlos Lozada: We consider that this process of decommissioning of weapons goes far beyond the simple fact that the insurgency fighters will stop using weapons in the exercise of politics. We believe that this is also done in the sense of not involving more arms in politics by all political sectors, which have been participating in one way or another in the complex Colombian social and political conflict. That is to say, it does not refer to the abandonment of weapons solely and exclusively to the insurgency, we believe that the State must withdraw its weapons from domestic politics and devote arms to the defense of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the natural resources of our country. That is to say, it is not only the unilateral vision in which only the insurgency renounces to the use of weapons in politics. What this moment represents is the commitment we assumed, and that we will logically fully fulfill as signatories of the Peace Agreement, which seeks to ensure that this tragedy that we have had to live for the last decades is never repeated.

What is the procedure to be followed for the decommissioning of weapons process?

Carlos Lozada: The procedure is as follows, the Agreement contemplates that the process of decommissioning of weapons has different moments, the first is called the registry, and it’s kind of a process in which all weapons that are to be deposited in the custody of the United Nations are noted. Then comes a part that is called control of weapons, which would already be the registry of the weapons that during the time of permanence in the Transitional Zones the combatants will have (i.e. the individual weapon with which they will remain until the process is finished), and another stage is to transfer artillery weapons such as machine guns, mortars, grenade launchers, which usually are not with the units. These weapons will be taken to the Transitional Zones and will gradually go under control of the international component of the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism [which is the United Nations] to the extent in which the agreed deadlines are being met.

Iván Márquez [head negotiator of the FARC-EP] has spoken about the FARC’s artillery and has made reference to double time missiles. Can you tell us about the process of elaboration, possession and use of these weapons?

Carlos Lozada: Throughout the confrontation, we have been able to develop various aspects of popular weaponry, and we have committed ourselves to the fact that the process of abandoning weapons involves absolutely all weapons. As long as the deadlines are being met and the mutually agreed commitments fulfilled, we will disclose our weapons and place them under control of the international component [United Nations]. It must be noted that this is an agreement that contemplates that the decommissioning of weapons process exclusively involves the FARC and the international component, because the military forces and the State will have nothing to do in this part.

Within this process and in the midst of the evident difficulties, what needs to be immediately done in order for this process not to have any kind of stumbling?

Carlos Lozada: There are a series of compromises agreed upon and we can summarize the concerns we have at this moment in this way:

The first is obviously the continuation of systematic killings against popular leaders and human rights defenders. That bloodshed against Colombians must stop. There is a need for greater commitment on the part of the Colombian State to guarantee mobilization and the existence of social organizations.

The second is the increase in the number of paramilitaries, who each day occupy more areas under the sometimes complacent supervision of some units of the armed forces. We cannot say that this involves the entirety of the armed forces, but we do have and know precise information about the connivance of some military units with these groups.

The third concern is slowness in the implementation of what has to do with the Amnesty and Pardon Act, by now and after two months of passing those laws, more than 4,000 FARC members and militiamen should have already been released from prison, and the more than 5,000 Colombians who benefit from these laws should also be released since they are convicted and imprisoned for participating in social protest and political opposition.

Regarding the connivance of military forces with paramilitaries, have you [the FARC] already filed a complaint to the implementation commission?

Carlos Lozada: That has been a recurring topic in a number of spaces where we meet with officials and representatives of the Government and the Colombian State. We have expressed our concern and provided evidence of this increase in the paramilitary presence in some areas, with information that comes from the communities.

The weapons are handed over, left in the hands of the United Nations and they are going to make 3 monuments, is the person who will make these monument already arranged?

Carlos Lozada: This topic about the construction of monuments has a great significance to us and a very great transcendence to the extent in which we want to symbolize with these monuments the recovery of the memory of the thousands of Colombians who died in the armed conflict. We hope that this monument will be a reference for future generations. As for the elaboration we have received proposals from very outstanding Colombians –which I cannot reveal their names yet – but they do in any case reflect and synthesize the idea of ​​what we consider must be the historical testimony that these monuments are to represent.

What will happen with the members of the FARC after the decommissioning of weapons process is completed? Is there any kind of community organization, cooperatives? What will life be like?

Carlos Lozada: Starting from the arrival to the Transitory Zones, the agreement contemplates the whole process of reincorporation of the FARC into society in the economic, political and social aspects according to our interests. Politically, as soon as we complete the decommissioning of weapons we will present out political proposal to the country. In economic terms, it will be the creation of a large cooperative that we be called "Common Economy", which will generate productive projects and will also try to become the development of an alternative community economy. In addition to this initiative we want to benefit the ex-combatants, their families and communities.

For you, Carlos Lozada, what has been the most beautiful or hopeful moment of this peace process?

Carlos Lozada: There are many things that one could narrate, but I will quickly refer to 3 things that really have meant transcendental events for me in this stage of the process. The first is the possibility of speaking with officers of the armed forces (...), without them this process could not have come to this stage. The second, to see the combatants with their families, we have been able to see how after 10, 15 and even more than 30 years the combatants can reunite with their loved ones, this touches one’s heart and makes us understand the longing for peace. The last is to see how the Transitional Zones are becoming a point of pilgrimage, where many people have come to congratulate us on the decisions that we have taken and offer us their solidarity.

Source: Contagio Radio