Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the last remaining weapons belonging to revolutionary rebels have been surrendered under the supervision of the United Nations, and will be smelted into peace monuments.
The weapons removal marks a monumental step in the peace process between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which had fought for a half-century. The last weapons container was taken out from the Pondores "reincorporation zone" in Colombia's La Guajira province.
"We are more optimistic because the impossible was fulfilled: departure of last container with FARC arms makes its disarmament definitive," Santos said in a statement Tuesday. "Today Colombia is a country without FARC, with presence of the government in the whole territory and opportunities like never before."
"We have just witnessed the final exit of containers with weapons in La Guajira: the last breath of the conflict with the FARC," he added. "Departure of the last container with weapons in peace zones puts an end to the abandonment of arms and [reincorporation] zones, and it initiates a new stage for Colombia."
The rebel group plans to become a fully functioning political party once the disarmament process ends. Key leader Iván Márquez said the former armed guerrilla group will maintain the use of its FARC acronym.
Most FARC members are being housed in so-called "reincorporation zones," in which the Colombian government and non-governmental organizations will help transition the ex-militants into civilian life. Santos' government will use the National Learning Service agency to educate the former militants.
More than 220,000 people died and 5 million were displaced during the Colombian conflict, which began after FARC's Marxist-inspired founding in 1964. The militant rebel group was involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and other illicit activity to fund the insurgency. Peace talks between Bogota and FARC started in Cuba in 2012.
Officials said FARC's weapons will be smelted into peace monuments that will be displayed in Bogota, New York City and Havana, Cuba.