FARC members voice worries on Colombia peace deal

AFP , Monday 19 Sep 2016

Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, cheer during a concert in the Yari Plains, southern Colombia, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 (Photo: AP)

Members of Colombia's FARC rebel group have "concerns" about the guarantees offered in a historic peace deal with the government, but still broadly support it, a commander said Monday.

Speaking at a rebel conference to vote on the deal, Pablo Catatumbo, a member of the general staff of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), laid out a list of worries raised by guerrillas as they contemplate disarming and transitioning to civilian life.

Members have voiced worries about finding their place in civilian life and possible reprisals from the remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups that fought them during the conflict, Catatumbo told journalists.

"There have been some concerns," he admitted, speaking at the conference in El Caguan, the rebels' traditional stronghold in southeastern Colombia.

"People are asking, for example, 'What will happen to the paramilitaries? Will the government hold up its end of the deal? How will we be reintegrated into the national economy?' People are also worried about whether (FARC) prisoners will really be released."

After nearly four years of peace talks in Cuba, FARC leaders are now seeking their troops' backing for the deal, which aims to end a half-century conflict that has claimed 260,000 lives.

The 297-page deal offers a series of guarantees to sway the FARC rank and file.

Carrots for wary rebels include security guarantees, amnesty for "political crimes," reduced sentences for those who confess to other crimes and plans for the FARC's relaunch as a political party.

Some 200 FARC delegates, including 29 members of the general staff and delegates elected by the rank and file, will vote on the peace deal at the end of the week-long conference, which opened Saturday.

Catatumbo hastened to add that despite the concerns, the deal had broad support.

"In general, there has been unanimous support for the deal signed in Havana, for the commander in chief, the general staff and the negotiating team," he said.

He said the final vote on the deal would be by a show of hands, with a majority needed for it to pass.

Colombians are then due to vote on the accord in a decisive referendum on October 2.

If it passes, the FARC's estimated 7,500 fighters are to disarm in a UN-supervised process.

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