Mainstream FARC rebels reject call to arms

Icononzo, Colombia, Sept 7 (AFP/APP):The logo on ex-FARC combatant Davinson Lopez’s tee-shirt says it all, and it’s a message Colombians desperately want to hear: “Our only weapon is peace.”

A week ago several of the most prominent leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia sent a chill through this conflict-weary country when they emerged briefly from hiding to declare a return to arms.

Ivan Marquez, FARC’s top negotiator for the 2016 peace agreement, said the government had reneged on key components of the deal and the time had come “for a new stage of fighting.”

But the majority of combatants who disarmed following the deal, and settled in normalization zones like this one in the green hills of Icononzo, say they are sticking with the peace process — despite

perceptions that the government lacks the will to implement it fully.

Lopez admits Marquez’s call knocked him back on his heels.

“No one expected this situation, let alone from Comrade Ivan Marquez,” he said. “He was very committed to the process, because he was the one who signed it.”

The 2016 peace agreement ended a 50-year conflict. And there’s little stomach for a return to the fray in these parts.

“Peace is irreversible,” said Lopez, in the cool mountain air of Icononzo, one of around two dozen temporary settlements meant to help the jungle fighters ease back into society.

Dirt roads wind through green hills dotted with red-roofed prefabricated houses. It has been home to some 300 former guerrillas and their families since late 2016.

“I’ve never thought about dropping this,” said former rebel Sonia Castill, taking a break from planting aloe. “After all the years fighting in the mountains, it’s too hard to throw away what we’ve achieved, so I won’t quit.”

Castill and other former combatants work the 22 hectares (55 acres) of land here to plant corn, potatoes, peas and avocados. Some work on nearby farms. Other ex-rebels have set up a small clothing company. There’s even a small craft brewery.

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