The FARC will now be known as Comunes (Commons) after members voted for the change at the political party’s second convention since it was founded in 2017 under the terms of the previous year’s peace agreement.
For decades, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) engaged in armed struggle against the state. The political party which emerged from the peace process named itself the People’s Alternative Common Force, which preserved the FARC acronym in Spanish. The name change was proposed by a committee and then approved by the assembly.
According to FARC senator Sandra Ramírez, the name reflects the FARC’s origins as an insurgent movement. ‘The word comes from [18th-century pro-independence leader] José Antonio Galán, who took part in the insurrection of the comuneros, who led the process of liberation in the colonial era against Spanish rule. It also comes from the process of revolutionary insurgency in the 1950s in which the comuneros, or communists, confronted the limpios, who were the liberales. The latter served the government and the comuneros created guerrillas. It’s the genesis of the FARC.’
The new name also has contemporary relevance. ‘Comunes has an enormous significance. We are the common people, we take to the streets to fight for our rights … we build a new Colombia at peace and with paths to reconciliation,’ said Ramírez.
However, it is also born from the urgent situation facing thousands of accredited FARC members, particularly with widespread media attention on so-called ‘FARC dissidents’ of former guerrillas who have not joined the peace process. ‘People confuse us with the dissidents. The right has exploited this to tar us with the same brush and they don’t want to differentiate between the party and the dissidents who call themselves FARC. This has generated confusion,’ said Ramírez.
254 former guerrillas in the peace process have been murdered since the agreement was signed in late 2016. The United Nations has warned that violence against the FARC, as well as social activists, is the main threat to the future of the peace process. Although the UN has said that more than 95 per cent of FARC former guerrillas have complied with their obligations to the peace process, they have continued to face stigmatisation from right-wing sectors.
The change of name is the latest step on the FARC/Comunes’ long road to consolidating peace in Colombia.