FARC members take seats in Colombian Congress

In an important advance for the peace process, the new FARC political party, the People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force, has entered Colombia’s Congress for the first time, where it will occupy a minimum of ten seats for the next two terms. The FARC reformed as a political party under the terms of the 2016 peace agreement it signed with the Colombian government to end more than half a century of armed conflict.

On Friday 20 July, the FARC formally entered the Congress, where it will occupy five seats in the Senate and five in the House of Representatives for the next two terms. After that the party will be subject to standard electoral procedure.

Among those to take seats in the Senate are peace negotiators Victoria Sandino, Pablo Catatumbo, Carlos Antonio Lozada and Sandra Ramírez. Their colleagues Olmedo Ruíz, Marcos Calarcá and Jairo Quintero have filled positions in the House of Representatives.

However, lead FARC peace negotiator Iván Márquez has not taken his seat in the Senate due to a lack of guarantees and in protest at the ongoing detention of his FARC colleague Jesús Santrich, who is scheduled to sit in the House of Representatives but remains in prison pending a US extradition request on allegations of drugs trafficking. The FARC and its supporters have called the charges ‘trumped up’. Mr Santrich has the right to be sworn in as he does not have any case against him in Colombia.

Many people have expressed concern that the incoming right-wing government of Iván Duque will seek to restrict or overturn the FARC’s participation in electoral politics.

‘The arrival of a delegation of the FARC to the Congress, after a confrontation of more than 50 years with the Colombian state, has a profound meaning that in some way synthesises what has been the signature of the peace agreement in Colombia’, said FARC senator Carlos Lozada.