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Sunday, 18 June 2017 00:00

"We’ll hand over all of our assests" Pastor Alape, FARC commander

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In an interview with Colombia2020, FARC Commander and member of the Secretariat of the Central High Command set the organization's position on the weapons lay down process, the assets of the FARC and the future of the organization.

The Attorney General said that you were going to legalize your assets through a decree-law ...

The Attorney General has definetly not made a judicious reading of the agreements, nor the decrees, or he simply read them with bias and seeking to obstruct the process. He has not understood the historical moment in which the country is and the need for the Attorney General's Office to work to ensure the end of the conflict. The FARC have been making a list of their assets, the patrimonial mass that had been collected for war will be used for the reparation of victims and the reincorporation of combatants. That is the agreement. That requires a judicious accounting process. We will hand over everything up to our last cent for peace. We play fair to the agreement.

The formal process of the abandoning of weapons process has began. 60% of the weapons are already in the hands of the UN, how is the atmosphere in the FARC camps?

We are focused on developing our political action plans. That gives us hope. We are committed to thinking about how we are going to reinorporate to the legal, economic and social life of the country. We have expectations and concerns about which land will be allocated to our productive projects. 80% of the FARC are peasants and the land is at the center of the conflict, so if there is no land for those who put everything on peace and those who have no land, it will be very frustrating.

Does that mean that for the FARC it is not a problem to abandon its weapons?

Weapons are not a guerrilla fetish; they were a tool for action. The strength of the guerrilla community is in the regions, in the communities; otherwise it would have not been possible to remain for 50 years in the struggle. Every day there is abandonment of arms, and each time we are going to accelerate more the fulfillment of our commitments. Of course, we have expressed our concern about the implementation stumbling blocks, because each breach gives us doubts.

What was the reason for the postponement of the abandonment of weapons? Many think it is non-compliance on part of the FARC ...

What we have demonstrated in this process is strict compliance. No consistent person could accuse us of not doing so. What this process has shown us is that when crucial dates are established, it is very complex, because this is a living process, with social dynamics, it cannot have such deadlines. Look at what happened when the FARC moved into the Trasitional Zones. We moved there despite the fact that the Government had not respected its logistical and infrastructure commitments. And today, day D + 192, there is no ready Transitional Zone completely ready. That shows the difficulties that the process has when it comes to agreed dates. What we have said is that the times are linked to the conditions of distance and land, and to atmospheric times. All this influences the respect of commitments. However, we have now a new deadline to allow Government, the United Nations and the FARC to accelerate and show the willingness to comply with the agreement.

Does that mean that the postponement was due to government non compliance?

No, it's just that it takes more time for the agreed terms for abandonment to be met. This includes guarantees, logistics, development in the field of final acts of reincorporation, etc.

What happens if the new deadline is not met?

It has to be fulfilled. This process is no longer belonging to the FARC and the Government, it belongs to the citizens.

When the Constitutional Court's ruling on the "fast track" was announced, "Timochenko" said that the FARC was declaring a permanent assembly. Has that assembly already concluded?

Yes, it concluded with the agreement of the new road map. We took the guerrillas thoughts and observations to the discussions with the Government. We made these assemblies because we needed to know the mood of our people; we wanted to hear their proposals to face that moment.

What is missing to make the agreements irreversible?

A legislation of peace that today is non-existent. Institutional adjustments are needed. Obviously in the FARC we are not fooled: this is a process that is subject to dynamics that must be built in this context. That is to say, the construction of peace is a process, so far we have made an agreement that closes the cycle of military confrontation, but we will have to open new routes to resolve the structural problems that gave rise to it and have fed it for more than half a century.

You said you are no fools, then you must anticipate that in this government administration's lifetime [which ends in 2018] the full compliance of the agreements will not be achieved. What’s the minimum you need to be achieved?

Complete amnesty; That the special unit for the investigation and combating of criminal organizations be put into operation; The route for comprehensive rural reform; Electoral and political reform; The creation of territorial spaces so that the guerrilla community can begin their economic reincorporation, and the rehabilitation of marginalized territories that have been excluded and forgotten.

The High Commissioner for Peace has described as a "curse" the fact that the presidential campaigns coincide with the first year of implementation. How to shield the Peace Agreement from the turbulence of the struggle for power?

That is a very complex issue. I do not think that it can be shielded, but the impact of the campaign could be mitigated, avoiding politicizing the agreement. And this is done with the participation of social, popular sectors, those who have been excluded from the electoral life. This way we can demand and propose alternatives to protect the essential core of the agreements in their implementation. And that requires that the Government maintains the implementation of agreements above the electoral swings.

But that is not going to be easy, since it is clear that the political class will not make it easy for the FARC to enter into the electoral life ... look at the attitude of the president of Congress, Mauricio Lizcano, or the mayor of Medellín, Federico Gutiérrez, who refused to sit at the same table with the FARC

We trust in the dynamics of the progress of the process. When the abandonment of arms ends, when the guerrilla community activates the productivity of the territories where its located, when they see us accompanying the “cocaleros” communities in their process of crop substitution, when the decontamination of mined territories advances etc,. All these acts are going to generate a new reality. Look at the dynamic of the process so far: at the beginning there were sectors and people who did not believe in this, and now they have gotten involved. I am not saying that now they defend the process, but they have been integrating themselves into the debate spaces. And the clear example is the governor of Antioquia, who participated in the discussion a week ago in Medellín.

Are you worried about the attitude of "Cambio Radical" [political party] in Congress and about the possibility of Germán Vargas Lleras to become president?

Well, hope is not lost. And that hope is born out of concrete moments, and what we see today is that there is growing support for the peace process. President Santos was re-elected for a second term to give continuity to the peace process. Today peace remains at the center of the electoral debate. And we believe that the majority of Colombians will support the candidate who promises to carry out this agreement. I don't believe that the sector that wants to return to the dark past of the war will prevail.

Do the government's failures, the new reality of the Constitutional Court and the zeal of the political class make you feel that the State is playing the card of a premeditated non-compliance?

We understand that the State is not monolithic, that there is internal debate, contradictions between sectors and struggle of interests. That is part of the State, but we also trust in the transformative and mobilizing power of the majority of Colombians, who today see a possibility of the country moving towards a more profound democracy. We´re not talking about a socialist Colombia, we only dream in this moment of a more democratic and tolerant country.

"Timochenko" said that the army's incursion into Guaviare Transitional Zone was not a mistake. What information do you have to affirm that?

What happens is that there has not yet been a reform of the norms of the military forces, and a counterinsurgent outlook still persists within many of their commanders. They are still betting on demobilization. They are in another world. That's what happened in the Guaviare Transitional Zone: an operation was made to look for desertions. The Armed Forces have not yet gotten used to the Peace doctrine.

Are you saying that they consciously violated the protocols of the bilateral ceasefire in order to go and promote desertions within the FARC?

Exactly. There will have to be an investigation against the commanders that ordered the operation, because it is an operation of sabotage to the peace process, which also goes against the laws and presidential directives. I think there is confusion in some members of the military because there has not been enough pedagogy on the Final Peace Agreement.

A week ago it was learned that a member of your security scheme had killed an eight year old boy, what happened?

I found out when I was informed that one of the members of the protection scheme did not come to work because he had a legal problem. His colleagues from the National Protection Unit said they were going to rob him, he shot and this resulted in a boy being wounded.

How are you adjusting to civilian life? How do you feel about how people have received you? I ask you because eight days ago in Medellín the mayor was rude to you and at the exit there was a group of people insulting you...

I will not disqualify anyone. I think the mayor is in the process of evaluating when is best for him to support the process. Because according to what he has shown, he doesn't seem like an inflexible enemy of peace. They say he supported the Yes-vote [on the referendum held in October regarding the Peace Agreement].

Regarding those who came out to protest against my presence: that's democracy. If you don't like something, it's okay to say it. The important thing is for it is carried out without violence. That's what we want. And in that sense, political leaders have a great responsibility to keep debates within the frame of respect and non-violence. That is the challenge that we face, all Colombians: to build a more civilized country.