FARC killings a challenge to peace, but some criticism political: Colombian official

BOGOTA (Reuters) - The murders of nearly 200 former fighters from the FARC rebels pose a difficulty in implementing Colombia’s peace deal, an official said on Monday, but he insisted the government is committed to providing security and criticized complaints leveled by the FARC party leader.

Emilio Jose Archila, Colombia's High Advisor for Post-conflict, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bogota, Colombia February 3, 2020. REUTERS/Andres Rojas

The Andean country inked a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels in late 2016, ending the group’s role in more than five decades of conflict which killed 260,000 people.

Implementation of the accord, which saw some 13,000 FARC members demobilize, has faced some significant hurdles, including the announcement last year by several former commanders that they were rearming.

Leadership of the FARC, now a political party, has repeatedly decried what it says are mediocre government efforts to protect members targeted for assassination by dissident fighters and drug traffickers.

Former rebels who lose confidence in the process could join dissidents or gangs, risking the peace deal.

“The security of ex-combatants is a priority for the government,” Emilio Archila, the presidential adviser charged with overseeing implementation, told Reuters. “It is a labor to which we give all importance and we are taking on the maximum responsibility that a government can have.”

The United Nations says 173 ex-combatants have been killed since peace was signed and many former rebels say killings are a source of deep fear.

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Archila criticized an open letter written by FARC party leader Rodrigo Londono alleging the government is falling short.

Londono warned in the letter, which was published on Sunday, that the process is approaching a “precipice.”

“It’s a political letter,” Archila said, adding the United Nations has praised implementation efforts. “The point of view of the FARC party, which is an opposition party, can only have two fundamentals - it’s a political manifestation or they don’t know what the whole world knows.”

“I think that some of them in good faith think things could be going more quickly,” Archila said.

The murder of former rebels is a challenge, Archila said, among others like rural development and caring for conflict victims.

Archila would not give specific figures on government spending on peace efforts, because the outlay takes place across several ministries, provinces and local municipalities and includes funding from international groups.

“The resources are substantially larger than what the national government has,” Archila said.

The country has spent more than $7.4 million on hundreds of economic projects for former combatants, including agriculture, tourism and restaurants, according to government figures.

Venezuela’s support for armed groups “complicates” implementation efforts, Archila added. Colombia has repeatedly accused President Nicolas Maduro of offering refuge to crime gangs, FARC dissidents and remaining rebels the ELN.

“They plan attacks there, execute them and then return and hide,” Archila said.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Leslie Adler