Colombia: as rebels join the drug trade, one in five fail reintegration programme

Image copyright AFP Image caption Colombian President Ivan Duque recently declared peace with the FARC

Colombia is still reeling from what many consider the country’s darkest period.

This week, thousands of Colombians will gather in a square in Medellin, the capital of one of Colombia’s most wealthy departments, to celebrate the successful peace process with the Farc rebel group.

In August 2016, President Juan Manuel Santos secured a deal with the former rebel group.

Now, the group that has been fighting for over half a century is being led by political leaders. Some call it a new political party. But critics say the Farc is just a new brand of the same type of group.

With the state of peace in Colombia, a number of ex-Farc guerrillas have formed other groups to continue to fight the state. Some have sprung up since the peace deal was agreed, others formed with Farc leaders who returned to Colombia after demobilising.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Former Farc commander Timoleon Jimenez became the leader of the new Rastrojos

Some of them are new, some of them have been with the Farc from the start, some also broke away from the former AUC paramilitaries.

This brings us to the possible wave of violence against former rebels now that they have left the army. Colombian police registered 80 murders of former members of the Farc this year. Colombia’s opposition senator Piedad Cordoba has warned that some people are inciting these murders and have formed groups to kill them.

Losing friends and family

Meanwhile, the Farc is still dealing with deep divisions over how to forge a new existence.

The Farc has approved a peace deal, but then reneged on its promise to give up the drugs business that had made it a billion-dollar business in the absence of a state that ruled over the huge tracts of Amazon land the rebels used to finance themselves.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption President Santos signed an agreement with Farc leaders, who entered the state

Now, the group is struggling to accept the consequences of its decision to make money from the supply of coca – the raw material for cocaine – instead of operating as part of a fully-fledged political party with rules.

In May, nearly one in five Farc fighters failed a compulsory 12-month reintegration program meant to orient them to the civilian world.

As a result, most of them have been subjected to being pushed out of the rebel group. Several have been rejected by their families for deserting the Farc and have gone back to Colombia.

These former rebels – the soldiers and civilians – have a lot to contend with. The number of people murdered in the country went up by nearly a third, to nearly 18,000 in 2017, the first year that former guerrillas were joining the ranks of Colombia’s criminals.

They do not want any part of that. They blame the government for allowing the drug trade to take place.

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