World Bulletin / News Desk
From July 20, 2018 until July 20, 2026, Colombia's former Farc guerrillas will have 10 seats in Congress for the first time since the guerrilla movement was formed in 1964.
A peace agreement with the Colombian government signed in 2016 granted the rebels legislative representation and ended their struggle for power. It was believed to be the final chapter of a half-century of civil struggle widely recognized as the longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere.
But the Farc´s path to Congress has not been an easy road.
It had to deal with widespread popular anger and faced fierce opposition from the center-right and right of the political spectrum. Right-wing politicians had constantly criticized the seats that the peace agreement granted to the Farc, highlighting that those who perpetrated war crimes should not be able to participate in politics without first being prosecuted.
The peace accord gave Farc members amnesty for crimes committed before the signing of the deal. Previous convictions were handed down by courts allowing the group’s leaders to participate in politics and run for public office once they handed in their guns. However, any legal violations committed after the agreement will be prosecuted under the ordinary legal system.
But the former guerrillas have faced judicial challenges since the agreement was signed. The U.S. Justice Department has requested the extradition of one Farc leader, Zeuxis Pausias Hernández, AKA Jesus Santrich, for drug trafficking offences, meaning he will be unable to occupy his position in Congress. Santrich has not been extradited but remains in custody in Colombia and was not allowed to take possession of his seat in the House of Representatives.
Santrich’s detention on April 9, 2018 triggered a political storm. Consequently, Ivan Marquez, another prominent Farc leader, withdrew from his seat, arguing that the government had breached the agreement.
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