FARC Hosts Group's Final Conference in Colombia
By VOA News September 17, 2016
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - FARC - is scheduled to host a week-long meeting beginning Saturday in the jungle conclave known as Yari Plains.
FARC rebels are gathering for their 10th congress, this time to discuss a peace agreement with the government that is expected to be signed on September 26, ending a half century of civil war in Colombia.
"So much pain and tears. So much pointless mourning and deprivation. So many lives and severed smiles to finally conclude that the way out is not war, but civilized discussion," Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko, FARC leader, said.
Colombia's five decades of conflict led to the deaths of more than 220,000 people and left millions displaced.
In June, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Londono signed a bilateral cease-fire, following nearly four years of negotiations between the two sides in Havana.
Part of the plan to help the FARC fighters includes paying them 90 percent of Colombia's minimum wage as they emerge from their hideouts. The negotiators compared the monthly $200 subsidy to the thousands of dollars spent on each army bombing raid.
Under the agreement, the rebels and government soldiers will receive amnesty for all but the gravest crimes.
Once the deal is approved, FARC will have nonvoting representation in Congress until 2018 and can participate in elections. From then on, the former rebels will have to win votes like candidates in any other political party.
After the agreement is signed, a 180-day countdown begins toward the full demobilization of the fighters, a process that the international community will monitor.
Colombians will then vote on the deal in an October 2 referendum, and the government must win support from many who would prefer to have defeated the guerrillas through military force to avenge years of kidnappings and attacks.
Reports say most opinion polls suggest Colombians will support the deal
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