Colombia's ex-rebels march in Bogota over murders

Bogota (AFP) –


Around 2,000 former FARC guerrillas rallied in the Colombian capital Sunday to protest the murder of 236 ex-combatants since signing a 2016 peace agreement.

Members of the former rebel movement turned political party arrived in Bogota after completing a 200-kilometer (125 miles) march from the southern town of Mesetas.

"We are mobilizing to demand respect for our lives and also for compliance with the peace agreement," FARC Senator Victoria Sandino told AFP, faced with what she called a "genocide against the signatories" of the 2016 peace agreement that ended a half-century of conflict.

Sandino holds one of 10 Congress seats reserved for FARC under the peace deal, when the bulk of the movement laid down its weapons.

The march began in Mesetas on October 21, following the killing of two local ex-FARC combatants days before.

Two more ex-rebels were killed on October 24 as the delegation continued towards Bogota, in what Rodrigo Granda, one of the negotiators of the agreement and a leader of the party, described as "a low blow to peace."

- 'State responsibility' -

On Sunday, the ex-rebels marched to Bolivar Square in the historic center of Bogota, converging with two other delegations from the south and north of the country to demand a meeting with right-wing President Ivan Duque.

Duque came to power in 2018 vowing to modify the peace agreement made by his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos, which he considered too lenient on former rebels accused of atrocities.

However, Congress has rejected the move.

The marchers banged drums, blew trumpets and waved banners, including one with the slogan, "Duque: we did not sign the peace deal to be killed."

"We are asking the president to meet with us so that we can talk about the challenges facing the Colombian state in guaranteeing the safety of its citizens," said Pastor Alape, a prominent FARC party leader.

According to the FARC, 236 signatories of the peace deal have been killed since it was signed.

"There is a state responsibility in these crimes," said Alape, adding that the killings have been motivated by "intolerance in the speeches of government officials, and the president of the republic himself."

The government says drug-trafficking organizations are behind most of the killings, as they fight a turf war over the production and export of cocaine through Central America to the United States.