Five years after the signing of the Peace Accords between the Colombian Government and the FARC, the former members of that guerrilla continue their process of reincorporation to civil life. The challenge is immense. For many of them, their new life consists of following the same fight, but without weapons. Between lack of professional opportunities, threats and assassinations, the road is difficult. A report by Margot Loizillon and Lionel Poussery.
The biggest change in Karen Mosquera’s life is named Stiven, her four-year-old son. For her, who entered the ranks of the FARC when she was 14 years old, being a mother was an unattainable dream in times of war.
“At that time we couldn’t have children. It was not allowed. For my process, being a mother has been a very important step, because I have my son, which is what I most longed for and want at this moment, ”says Karen, who since the signing of the Peace Accords in 2016 lives in a territorial space in the south of Colombia. These places have been created to accompany the reintegration of ex-combatants.
Like Karen, some 20 families live in the El Estrecho reincorporation space, in the department of Cauca. The biggest challenge for these families is having a professional activity. Ex-combatants receive a salary from the state, about 250 USD, but this does not compensate for the lack of job opportunities.
This situation forced several reincorporated persons to abandon territorial areas, such as Monterredondo, in the north of the department of Cauca. In 2016, there were about 250 ex-combatants, today there are only 40 who remain, who generally work on the surrounding farms.
Ricardo is one of those who left Monterredondo to find a better situation. Now he works on a farm in La Elvira (Cauca), where he works as a farmer, among other fish and pig farming jobs. Activities he had to learn after turning over his weapons in 2016.
Despite the economic difficulties of this project, Ricardo does not regret having laid down his arms. “We are convinced that here we have to achieve what we did not achieve with weapons and this is where we go, due to the legality … it is complicated, but one learns,” says Ricardo.
Security, at the center of the concerns of the demobilized FARC
What concerns veterans most is their safety. Despite the fact that some have a security scheme with escorts financed by the National Protection Unit (UNP), the reintegrated are victims of threats and assassinations. About 300 of them have been assassinated during the five years after the signing of the peace agreement.
In 2018, Nilton Castro was shot by two hitmen on a motorcycle while he was traveling in his car in the Cajibío area, in the department of Cauca. “They approached the car and started shooting. After that I managed to throw myself like a pasture and they come back a few minutes to see how he was, if he was dead, if he was alive. But when they arrived I was far away ”, he says.
The investigation into the attack against Nilton, like most cases of attacks on former FARC members, has not advanced, for that reason he still does not know who the perpetrators were.
Faced with this danger from the groups that control certain disputed regions and that have killed many reintegrated, several ex-combatants have decided to settle in the cities where they feel safer. Since the attack, Nilton has lived in the city of Popayán.