‘We’re a New Party for a New Country’: Colombia FARC Leader Byron Yepes

Source:  TeleSUR
September 1 2017

By: Carla Gonzalez

Byron Yepes.pngByron Yepes during the FARC Congress in Bogota, Colombia. | Photo: Twitter @ByronYepes_Farc

In an exclusive interview, teleSUR spoke with Byron Yepes, member of the Central High Command of the FARC on the future of the organization.

For Byron Yepes, a member of the FARC Central High Command, the group’s congress, which has closed, is key to determining the future of the organization and will revolutionize the way Colombians see politics.

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Yepes, whose given name is Julian Villamizar, handled some of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia territories, and its finances at one point, and was a key ally to Manuel Marulanda co-founder of the FARC and commander “Mono Jojoy” member of the FARC Secretariat, both killed during the conflict.

Yepes himself was once considered to have been captured and killed in 2010.

“It is the first time we meet with delegates, former FARC fighters, in Bogota in the center of the capital, of what was once a clandestine party,” Yepes told teleSUR from the Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada Convention Center, where the congress was taking place.

At the event’s plenary session the fundamental elements of the party, its political platform, and symbols it will use were all approved.

Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons

The new party, which will now be called the “Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons,” with the same acronym, will seek to participate in all future elections, from small communal councils to municipal elections, and also for legislative seats.

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“We are going to influence politics, with fresh ideas, renewed ideas, with a new party for a new country, Yepes said. “We are going to be an alternative, a change of political traditions in Colombia, a change in the way the political parties act.”

The congress chose its leading members, but Yepes says it is up to them to go to the streets and build the structure of the party.

He says this critical step will include many challenges, work, and mostly a lot of expectations.

For this step, the congress included the participation and input from social organizations from all regions, and from the former transitional zones, which are now called “Territorial Areas of Reconciliation.”

Reflecting the aspirations of the Colombian people

“Our party is a party that collects and reflects the aspirations of the Colombian people, the common people, that is, people who have never had a voice, most of them who have not had opportunities,” Yepes said.

Campesinos, Indigenous people, Afro-descendants, women and workers from across the country met this week as part of delegations.

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“There is a good number of former combatants, comrades from different regions, and social organizations that have historically accompanied us throughout the war,” Yepes said. “And throughout the struggle, they have also been on the task of building the party.”

But the challenges to consolidate peace are still a major challenge for FARC members, who have already delivered all their weapons and began their transition into society.

The main criticism, since the signing of the peace agreement on Sept. 27, 2016, in Havana, Cuba, is the slow implementation by the government of Juan Manuel Santos.

To consolidate peace

“The struggle of all Colombians is to consolidate peace, to consolidate the implementation of the agreements because the agreement is not only for us, it is for Colombian society, it will affect the common Colombian people,” Yepes said.

“It will have a concrete impact on political, economic, and social life,” he explained.

But the most crucial part of the agreement is still the Colombian state’s commitment to eliminate paramilitaries and all forms of violence jeopardizing the definitive and permanent peace.

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“The reality is that every day in Colombia we are seeing murders of social leaders, and this should not be the case, the war is over,” Yepes told teleSUR.

Without having the military force as a way to pressure the government, the FARC will now have to seek other mechanisms to ensure that the Santos government complies with its part of the deal.

We are going to take to the streets

“We are going to take to the streets to mobilize with Colombian society, with the Colombian people, to impose on the Colombian regime the fulfillment of the agreements,” he said.

The long-awaited peace in Colombia does not only affect its people but it also has an echo in the rest of the region.

“Latin America has declared several times in different summits, that it has to be a continent free of conflicts,” Yepes said.

“Our continent is a continent that will live in peace, in harmony, in tranquility,” he concluded.

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