Venezuela: Maduro invites opposition to meet with government

Source:  Granma
December 4 2017

nicolas maduro nov 2017 2

“On 372 occasions I have called for a national dialogue,” said the president. | Photo: @PresidencialVen

Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, invited opposition members to meet with government representatives at Miraflores Palace, in order to strengthen formal talks and review the six point agenda agreed upon by both parties in talks held December 1-2 in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic.

“I want to invite Deputy Julio Borges, Deputy Luis Florido, Deputy Timoteo Zambrano and Deputy Luis Aquiles Moreno, representing opposition parties, Justice First, People’s Will, Democratic Action, and A New Time, to Miraflores Palace this week,” Maduro stated during the 98th episode of the weekly television program he hosts on VTV, Los Domingos con Maduro.

The head of state recalled that the Venezuelan government maintains a constant dialogue with all the country’s productive and social sectors, and highlighted the importance of consolidating formal talks with all political sectors for the well-being of the country.

“Now we need a political dialogue with all the country’s political actors, with all political forces and factions, I have insisted a great deal on there being dialogue and a permanent system of transparent dialogue regarding the country with the opposition,” he stated, according to AVN.

Maduro also highlighted the repeated calls he has made to oppositions sectors to participate in talks in order to achieve peace. “I have called for national dialogue on 372 occasions,” he stressed.

Zimbabwe Ruling Party Replaces Mugabe as Leader with Ousted VP

Source:  TeleSUR
November 19 2017

Robert Mugabe 5.jpg
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. | Photo: Reuters FILE

Grace Mugabe has been expelled from the ZANU-PF party as well.

Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF has removed President Robert Mugabe as head of the party, replacing him with Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had recently been ousted as the country’s vice president. Mugabe remains the president of the country.

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Grace Mugabe, the president’s wife, as well as Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Ignatius Chombo and Patrick Zhuwao, Mugabe’s nephew, were expelled from the party.

The meeting, held by ZANU-PF’s Central Committee, the highest decision-making body in the party, comes one day after a march of tens of thousands of people, in favor of ousting the long-serving leader. Protesters waved Zimbabwean flags and hoisted placards with slogans like, “Mugabe Must Rest Now,” and “No to a Mugabe Dynasty.”

However, the army reiterated that their action is “not a coup” and “not against President Mugabe,” but against “criminals” within his sphere and those who support Grace Mugabe’s political ambitions, which splintered the party ahead of its upcoming national congress to select a new leader before planned presidential elections in 2018.

Regarded across Africa and the diaspora as one of the last liberation fighters against European colonialism on the continent, a struggle epitomized in Bob Marley’s song “Zimbabwe,” Mugabe is said to have asked to serve the rest of his presidential term until next year’s elections when he will voluntarily step down. Mugabe made a public appearance days after the army came onto the streets and was seen in photos shaking hands and smiling with the army general who led the military action.

The Zimbabwe parliament

Military leaders are also set to meet with Mugabe later on Sunday, with a Catholic priest expected to mediate between the army and president, who has rejected a deal to step down, CNN reported, citing an official.

The Zimbabwe parliament is set to meet on Tuesday and could vote to start impeachment proceedings against Mugabe.

On Wednesday, the army seized power in the capital, Harare, but denied they had carried out a coup stating they were attempting to strike a deal with the president to resign.

The elder statesman put the African nation into a tailspin after firing his Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was tipped as his successor.

Zimbabwe’s Indigenization Minister Patrick Zhuwao said the veteran leader “is willing to die for his principles.” Mugabe has been the elected leader of Zimbabwe for 37 years.

RELATED: Mugabe Stripped of WHO Goodwill Ambassadorship

Ousting former president Ian Smith

After having been imprisoned for over a decade by colonial forces, as well as being prohibited from attending the funeral of his three-year-old son, Michael Nhamodzenyika, Mugabe helped lead the Chimurenga Bush War from Mozambique to oust former president Ian Smith and his white minority government.

He’d come under fire for reclaiming land to distribute more equitably among his compatriots. By 2013, despite the British government withholding the white farmer’s compensation package, Mugabe had lived up to his end of the bargain, expropriating or confirming for redistribution most of their land.

The United States imposed a credit freeze on Zimbabwe in 2001. The European Union followed suit in 2002 by imposing sanctions in the form of an asset freeze and travel ban. The measures led to a major trade deficit and adversely affected the country’s healthcare system.redistribution

Mugabe Makes First Public Appearance, Military Pushes Exit

Source:  TeleSUR
November 17 2017

mugage attending graduation.jpgMugabe attending a graduate ceremony, his first public appearance since the military mobilization on Harare. | Photo: Reuters

Being cheered by a crowd at a graduation ceremony, Mugabe made his first public appearance since the military mobilized in Harare.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe made his first public appearance at a graduation ceremony in the capital city of Harare.

RELATED:   Zimbabwe’s Military Denies Coup, Zuma Says Mugabe Is ‘Fine’

This was the first time Mugabe had been seen since his military-imposed house arrest that began on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Defence Force announces “breakthroughs” for Mugabe’s exit from power.

“The Army applauds the nation for remaining patient and peaceful while it carries out its operations,” the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, ZDF, said in a statement.

The ZDF announced that it has reached “significant progress” to facilitate the exit of the government of President Mugabe, who has remained in power since the nation’s independence in 1980, and purging “criminals” from the African nation’s political structure.

Negotiations described as “on the way forward” are still under way, the Zimbabwe Defense Forces reported in a statement, which was delivered through state media.

“Significant progress has been made in its operation to identify the criminals around President Mugabe,” said the military, while confirming the continuity of the search and capture of these “criminals”, without giving any specific details or names.

OPINION:  Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe Has Fallen From Grace

The army insisted in its statement that these people “committed crimes that caused social and economic suffering” to the country.

The statement continued, “we are working with the President and Commander in Chief Robert Mugabe on the way forward.”

“We will periodically publish press releases to keep the public informed of events in the country, and the Army applauds the nation for remaining patient and peaceful while it carries out its operations,” the statement said.

Opposition leaders told CNN that a plan to remove Mugabe was discussed “a long time ago” by members of the president’s party and members of the opposition.

State media has said that Mugabe does not intend to leave his position and instead wants to continue until 2018, when the 93-year old’s term expires.

The military mobilized to secure power, which they have said is not a coup, after a dispute over the president’s successor.

Aggression against U.S. diplomats in Havana: Unfounded and implausible

Source:  Granma
October 5 2017

No credible explanation exists for the various symptoms described by U.S. diplomatic staff, and experts deny the relevance of the laws of physics evoked in some of the theories presented.

by: Sergio Alejandro Gómez | internet@granma.cu

unfounded and implausible.jpgThe strange story of U.S. diplomats suffering hearing loss and other damage to their health, while working in Cuba burst into the media this past August. The first of the alleged incidents goes back to November of 2016, and the most recent supposedly occurred just a few weeks ago.

Nevertheless, to date no credible explanation exists for the various symptoms described, and experts deny the relevance of the laws of physics evoked in some of the hypotheses presented.

The case, that appears to have been extracted from a spy novel, is being taken very seriously in Havana.

No evidence

As directed by the highest level of government, Cuban authorities began their own investigation as soon as they received the first notifications from the U.S. Embassy and the State Department on February 17, this year.

“According to preliminary results obtained and the information shared by U.S. authorities, at this time there is no evidence that confirms the causes or origin of the alleged health issues of U.S. diplomats and their family members,” affirmed a source close to the Cuban investigation.

The U.S. investigations, for their part, do not provide any clarity. Members of this country’s specialized agencies were invited by Cuba to advance their investigations on the ground here, but their results have not been conclusive.

“We don’t know who or what caused this,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, “That’s why the investigation is still open.”

The complexity of the investigation and the experts’ bewilderment have not restrained those attempting to place the responsibility on Cuba and undo the progress made in relations with the United States, which began after December 17, 2014.

The Senator of Cuban origin and opponent of any rapprochement with Havana, Marco Rubio, recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in which he requested the expulsion of all Cuban diplomats in Washington and the eventual closing of the country’s embassy in Cuba, as a reprisal for the alleged “acoustical attacks” which damaged the health of U.S. officials in Havana.

Nevertheless, the missive additionally signed by Republican Senators Tom Cotton, Richard Burr, John Cornyn, and James Lankford, does not supply any evidence whatsoever of Cuban culpability and ignores the willingness shown, from the very beginning, by local authorities to establish cooperation and move the investigation forward.

Rubio was one of the architects of changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba announced by the Trump administration this past June, to reinforce the implementation of the blockade. The legislator, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has used all kinds of ruses to limit ties between the two countries.

Unprecedented events

The hypothesis of an “acoustic attack” and the use of sophisticated “sonic weapons” against U.S. diplomats has been present since the story came to light, despite the lack of evidence and the opinion of experts denying the possibility that any device could generate the symptoms described, under the conditions reported.

The State Department has not specifically referred to the effects on the health of its personnel in Havana, but the press has reported a broad variety of symptomologies. Some cases include migraines, dizziness, and hearing loss, while others go so far as cognitive impairment, trouble recalling words, and light brain damage.

The diagnoses provoked confusion among experts, the FBI, the State Department, and U.S. agencies involved in the investigation, according to reports from the Associated Press (AP) news agency.

It’s not possible

“Brain damage and concussions, it’s not possible,” said Joseph Pompei, a former MIT researcher and psychoacoustics expert. “Somebody would have to submerge their head into a pool lined with very powerful ultrasound transducers.”Toby Heys, the leader of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Future Technologies research center, in the UK, told New Scientist it was possible for something emitting infrasound – vibrations at a frequency below what humans can hear – to cause hearing loss, but large speakers at high volume would be required, which would be very difficult to hide.

Sonic weapons used to disperse crowds and protect ships from pirate attacks utilize this type of equipment. The devices take up considerable space and all people within their reach are affected.

But many of the alleged incidents in Havana, according to published U.S. reports, took place in enclosed spaces, sometimes in a single room, with laser precision, affecting a specific person without hurting anyone else.

Some of the attacks allegedly took place in the residences of diplomats, and even in public buildings such as the recently remodeled Capri Hotel, a 19-story concrete skyscraper with 250 rooms, where no guests have reported any such health problems.

According to AP, the FBI itself traveled to Havana and carried out investigations in some of the rooms where the attacks presumably occurred. They found no evidence of sonic devices.

For their part, Cuban specialized services have not detected “possible perpetuators, or persons with the motivation, intention, or means to take this type of action,” according to sources close to the investigation, “Nor has the presence been established of suspicious persons or devices in the places where the incidents have been reported, nor in their surroundings.”

No precedent exists in Cuba of events with these characteristics. “Cuban authorities do not possess or have any familiarity with equipment or technology that could be used for the purpose described as an acoustic attack,” the same source adds.

Cuba has always been willing to cooperate

After receiving the first the first notifications from the U.S. embassy, Cuban authorities created an inter-institutional committee of experts to analyze the events; they expanded and reinforced protective measures and security at the site, for personnel, and diplomatic residences; and activated new means of direct communication between the embassy and the Department of Diplomatic Security, according to the official statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this past August 9, when the news became public.

Cuba insisted that specialized U.S. agencies visit the country and proceed with investigations onsite, which was in fact done in June. Other visits were conducted in the months of August and September.

“The three meetings held between representatives of Cuban authorities and specialized U.S. agencies were held in a constructive, professional climate,” reported a source with knowledge of the exchanges, adding that the U.S. delegation expressed its intention to cooperate “in the investigation of these incidents in a more substantive manner.” Likewise, members of specialized agencies who have visited Cuba recognized that local authorities have acted in a timely, professional fashion.

“We consider the continuation of these visits positive. Cuban authorities are very much interested in accelerating and concluding the investigation, for which the cooperation of U.S. authorities is essential,” the source stated.

Given the innumerable variables in the case, marked by the long history of conflict between the two countries, cooperation is essential. Reporting incidents immediately; supplying evidence; sharing information that facilitates characterization of the events or the identification of possible suspects, if they exist; providing access to those affected and the doctors who diagnosed their health problems; and interacting with experts with knowledge of the incidents and the alleged technology used would be basic elements of such cooperation, and would produce results in any situation.

Not even in the worst moments

Another major inconsistency in the saga is the moment when the incidents allegedly began. In November of 2016, the governments of Cuba and the United States were rapidly advancing in the establishment of a series of important agreements that would benefit both countries.

After a long history of aggression and attempts to force surrender on the Cuban people with hunger and depravation, with the goal of transforming its political system, the Barack Obama administration recognized, on December 17, 2014, that the blockade was a failure and had ended up isolating the United States itself.

The climate between the two countries changed significantly. Diplomatic relations were established and 22 agreements were signed on a variety of subjects, ranging from environmental protection and the reopening of direct flights to cooperation on security matters. Who could be interested in sabotaging relations with Washington?

Moreover, if, as a question of revolutionary principles, the government of Cuba has never resorted to aggressive methods against U.S. diplomats, even in the moments of greatest tension, what reason would there be to begin to do so after making the sovereign decision to reestablish relations with Washington?

This past May, the State Department requested that two Cuban officials leave U.S. territory, as a consequence of the acts that allegedly damaged the health of its diplomatic personnel in Havana, a measure that Cuba described as “unjustified and rash.”

It is now known that, precisely when this occurred, Cuban authorities were undertaking investigative action and showing their full disposition to collaborate with their U.S. counterparts.

The official statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that Cuba is fulfilling, and has always fulfilled, with “all rigor and seriousness,” its obligations as established in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, in terms of protecting the physical integrity of diplomatic staff and mission sites.

“The impeccable record of our country in this area is internationally recognized, and Cuba is universally considered a secure destination for foreign visitors and diplomats, including those from the United States,” the statement reads.

In this same tone, a high ranking Cuban diplomat reaffirmed, “The Cuban government has not perpetrated, nor will it perpetuate, attacks of any kind on accredited diplomatic officials or their families, nor has it permitted, nor will it permit, that Cuban territory be used by third parties for this purpose.”

Given the lack of evidence and the complexity of the case, Cuban authorities are keeping the case open, and are ready to collaborate with their U.S. counterparts to clarify the events.

 

Rafael Correa: Lenin Moreno is a ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ who was ‘With the Opposition

Source:  TeleSUR
October 5 2017

rafael correa 4.jpgFormer President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. | Photo: EFE

Ecuador’s former president defended Vice President Jorge Glas, who faces corruption accusations, and blasted President Moreno as a “traitor.”

Former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, denounced his Alianza Pais successor Lenin Moreno as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and expressed support for the current Vice President who is accused of alleged corruption.

RELATED:  Ecuador VP Jorge Glas Sentenced to Pretrial Detention

Accusations without evidence

In an interview with CNN Español following President Moreno’s decision to place Vice President Jorge Glas in pre-trial detention to face corruption accusations, Correa called the charges against Glas “a vulgar political persecution” that is the same thing “they used in Brazil against Dilma,” referring to the ousting of Brazil’s elected president, Dilma Rousseff on the basis of corruption charges in a move many called an “institutional coup.”

He defended the Vice President, saying that the accusations are without evidence. “Glas is a person that does not steal or allow theft, but for this one makes enemies,” he said.

As for President Moreno, Correa said that the current President had deceived him for ten years as a close political ally, who served in his government only to turn on him as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” once assuming power himself.

The founding leader of Ecuador’s Citizen’s Revolution argues that Moreno and his allies “were never with us, but were with the opposition.”

“Moreno cheated me for ten years. He is a person that was with the opposition,” Correa said.

Moreno had previously served as Correa’s Vice President from 2007 to 2013.

Underscoring the abrupt shift that Moreno took after assuming office, Correa said “I went from being the ‘eternal president’ to the ‘corrupt,’” referring to Lenin’s praising words at the inauguration dubbing Correa Ecuador’s “eternal president.”

RELATED:  Ecuador Names Maria Alejandra Vicuna Acting Vice President

Correa also criticized Moreno’s upcoming consultation, which he said had the ultimate aim of preventing Correa from returning to power by eliminating indefinite presidential reelections through constitutional changes.

With Glas relieved of his duties, it was announced on Wednesday that former Housing Minister Maria Alejandra Vicuna would be taking on the role as acting Vice President.

The prosecuted Vice President, Jorge Glas, is a close supporter of Correa, and has said that the charges against him are simply a “retaliation” for criticizing the direction Moreno was taking the country.

IMF to visit Ecuador

Moreno has promoted a policy of “dialogue” with the country’s right-wing opposition,” and announced on Wednesday that the International Monetary Fund would be visiting the country to asses the economic situation. The decision marks a departure from Correa’s policies, which largely rejected the influence of international organizations in Ecuador’s economy in favor of independence.

“A wide range of measures” need to be taken, Moreno said about the upcoming IMF visit.

Cuba has never perpetrated, nor will it ever perpetrate attacks of any sort against diplomatic officials or their relatives, without any exception

Source:  Granma
October 3 2017

by Cubaminrex | internet@granma.cu

minrex cuba.jpgStatement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba in response to recent measures taken by the Trump administration following incidents involving U.S. diplomatic personnel in Havana

Photo: Cubaminrex

On September 29, 2017, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the decision to significantly downscale the diplomatic staff of the US embassy in Havana and withdraw all their relatives, claiming that there had been “attacks” perpetrated against US Government officials in Cuba which have harmed their health.
Once again, on October 3, the US Government, in an unwarranted act, decided that 15 officials of the Cuban Embassy in Washington should depart from the United States, claiming that the US had reduced their diplomatic staffing levels in Havana and that the Cuban Government had failed to take all appropriate steps to prevent “attacks” against them.

Decisions not supported by evidence

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly protests and condemns this unfounded and unacceptable decision as well as the pretext used to justify it, for it has been asserted that the Cuban Government did not take the appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of the alleged incidents.
Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla 7.jpgIn the meeting that, at the proposal of the Cuban side, was held with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, warned him against the adoption of hasty decisions that were not supported by evidence; urged him not to politicize a matter of this nature and once again required the effective cooperation from the US authorities to clarify facts and conclude the investigation.
It is the second time, since May 23, 2017, when the State Department ordered two Cuban diplomats in Washington to leave the country; that the US Government has reacted in a hasty, inappropriate and unthinking way, without having evidence of the occurrence of the adduced facts, for which Cuba has no responsibility whatsoever and before the conclusion of the investigation that is still in progress.

Just as was expressed by the Cuban Foreign Minister to Secretary of State Tillerson on September 26, 2017, Cuba, has seriously and strictly observed its obligations under the Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 referring to the protection and integrity of diplomatic agents accredited in the country, in which it has an impeccable record.  Cuba has observed its obligations despite the fact that its diplomatic staff members have been victims in the past of attempts perpetrated against their lives, and have been  murdered, disappeared, kidnapped or attacked during the performance of their duty,

The Cuban authorities have acted with utmost seriousness, professionalism and immediacy

As the Ministry informed on August 9, since February 17, 2017, when the US embassy and State Department notified us of the alleged occurrence of incidents against some officials of that diplomatic mission and their relatives from November 2016, arguing that these had caused them injuries and other disorders, the Cuban authorities have acted with utmost seriousness, professionalism and immediacy to clarify this situation and opened an exhaustive and priority investigation following instructions from the top level of the Government. The measures adopted to protect the US diplomatic staff, their relatives and residences were reinforced; new expeditious communication channels were established between the US embassy and the Diplomatic Security Department and a committee of experts was created to make a comprehensive analysis of facts, which was made up by law enforcement officials, physicians and scientists.

In the face of the belated, fragmented and insufficient information supplied by the US, the Cuban authorities requested further information and clarifications from the US embassy in order to carry out a serious and profound investigation.
The US embassy only delivered some data of interest on the alleged incidents after February 21, when President Raúl Castro Ruz personally reiterated to the Chargé d’Affairs of the US diplomatic mission how important it was for the competent authorities from both countries to cooperate and exchange more information.

Nevertheless, the data supplied later on continued to be lacking in the descriptions or details that would facilitate the characterization of facts or the identification of potential perpetrators, in case there were any.

In the weeks that followed, in view of new reports on the alleged incidents and the scarce information that had been delivered, the Cuban authorities reiterated the need to establish an effective cooperation and asked the US authorities for more information and insisted that the occurrence of any new incident should be notified in real time, which would provide for a timely action.

Besides all of the above and in the interest of contributing to the investigation and legal process established by virtue of the Cuban Criminal Procedural Law, the US received from Cuba some requests for information as part of the inquiry procedure.
The information delivered by the US authorities led the committee of Cuban experts to conclude that this was insufficient and that the main obstacle to clarify the incidents had been the impossibility to have direct access to the injured people and the physicians who examined them; the belated delivery of evidence and their deficient value; the absence of reliable first-hand  and verifiable information and the inability to exchange with US experts who are knowledgeable about this kind of events and the technology that could have been used, despite having repeatedly stating this as a requirement to be able to move forward in the investigation.

Only after repeated requests were conveyed to the US Government, some representatives of specialized agencies of that country finally traveled to Havana on June last, met with their Cuban counterparts and expressed their intention to cooperate in a more substantive way in the investigation of the alleged incidents.  They again visited Cuba in August and September, and for the first time in more than 50 years they were allowed to work on the ground, for which they were granted all facilities, including the possibility of importing equipment, as a gesture of good will that evidenced the great interest of the Cuban government in concluding the investigation.

The Cuban authorities highly assessed the three visits made by the US specialized agencies, which have recognized the high professional level of the investigation started by Cuba and its high technical and  scientific component, and which, as a preliminary result, concluded that, so far, according to the information available and the data supplied by the United States, there were no evidence of the occurrence of  the alleged incidents or the causes and the origin of the health disorders reported  by the US diplomats and their relatives.  Neither has it been possible to identify potential perpetrators or persons with motivations, intentions or means to perpetrate this type of actions; nor was it possible to establish the presence of suspicious persons or means at the locations where such facts have been reported or in their vicinity.  The Cuban authorities are not familiar with the equipment or the technology that could be used for that purpose; nor do they have information indicating their presence in the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs categorically rejects any responsibility of the Cuban Government in the alleged incidents and reiterates once again that Cuba has never perpetrated, nor will it ever perpetrate attacks of any sort against diplomatic officials or their relatives, without any exception. Neither has it ever allowed nor will it ever allow its territory to be used by third parties with that purpose.

The Ministry emphasizes that the US Government announced decision to reduce Cuba’s diplomatic staff in Washington without the conclusive results from the investigation and without evidence of the incidents that would be affecting their officials in Cuba has an eminently political character.

The Ministry urges the competent authorities of the US Government not to continue politicizing this matter, which can provoke an undesirable escalation and would rarify and reverse even more bilateral relations, which were already affected by the announcement of a new policy made in June last by President Donald Trump.
The Ministry reiterates Cuba’s disposition to continue fostering a serious and objective cooperation between the authorities of both countries with the purpose of clarifying these facts and conclude the investigation, for which it will be essential to count on the most effective cooperation of the US competent agencies.

Havana, October 3, 2017.

‘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.

RELATED:FARC’s New Political Party Will End Inequality: Timochenko

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.

RELATED:Colombia FARC Rebels Want to Form Professional Soccer Club

“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.

RELATED: FARC Asks Santos, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, to Stop Inciting War With Venezuela

“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.

RELATED:  Armed Men in Colombia Kill 8th FARC Member, Raising Alarm

“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.