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FARC members turn selves in for disarmament in Colombia

By Andrew V. Pestano
FARC members travel to reach reincorporation zones, where they will disarm, as part of a peace agreement with the Colombian government. Nearly half of all FARC members have already turned themselves in, a Colombian official said. Photo courtesy of Revolutionary Army Forces of Colombia
FARC members travel to reach reincorporation zones, where they will disarm, as part of a peace agreement with the Colombian government. Nearly half of all FARC members have already turned themselves in, a Colombian official said. Photo courtesy of Revolutionary Army Forces of Colombia

Jan. 30 (UPI) -- A Colombian official said nearly half of all FARC members have turned themselves in to reincorporation zones as part of an agreement that will allow the former illicit guerrilla group to establish a political party.

Colombia's High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo said the Colombian government expects about 5,500 FARC members to reach seven temporary shelters and 19 established rural zones as part of a disarmament and reincorporation process by Tuesday, the deadline to reach the zones.

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Jaramillo said about 2,500 FARC members arrived to the disarmament locations by Sunday with more on the way. Colombian and FARC officials previously agreed that the Colombian government would suspend the arrest of FARC members if they peacefully turned themselves in to the locations.

"It's great news for Colombia. The peace process is advancing, the FARC are entering the zones," Jaramillo told El Tiempo.

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FARC official Marcos Calarcá said the guerilla members are attempting to reach disarmament zones but are being hindered by "inconveniences, such as the poor state of the roads," but added that "we are doing everything possible to achieve" reaching those areas.

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Chief FARC peace negotiator Iván Márquez on Jan. 22 said FARC representatives will establish a political party in May, adding that the organization can only join the democratic process after the process of disarmament has ended.

"In compliance with the agreement, FARC units move towards the zones where the reincorporation process is to take place," FARC said in a statement.

On Thursday, the government and FARC reached an agreement that would establish 10 areas near the disarmament zones where children who were in FARC's ranks would be attended by the government. Colombian officials hope to reunite the children with their families.

The Colombian army estimates nearly half of all FARC members were recruited when they were children -- a human rights violation. Many child soldiers said they joined the FARC, formally known as the Revolutionary Army Forces of Colombia, to escape domestic violence or poverty, while many others were kidnapped.

More than 220,000 people have died and 5 million have been internally displaced due to the Colombian conflict since the FARC's Marxist-inspired founding in 1964. The militant rebel group has been involved in drug-trafficking, kidnapping and other illicit activity to fund its insurgency.

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