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FARC congress brings rebels to politics, strengthens Colombia’s democracy

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are holding a historic congress in Bogota this week to determine the political fate of the demobilized guerrilla organization.

Gustavo A. Flores-Macías

Gustavo A. Flores-Macías

Associate Professor of Government

Gustavo Flores-Macias, a professor of government at Cornell University and author of the book “After Neoliberalism? The Left and Economic Reforms in Latin America”, says that while much is still unclear about the FARC’s ideological identity and popular support as it transitions into a political party, the process itself will strengthen Colombia’s democracy.

Flores-Macias says: 

“More than 1,000 delegates will decide by Friday the type of party that will emerge out of the meeting, including its name, political platform, and organizational structure.

“The congress marks an important milestone in the completion of the 2016 peace accords, which granted the FARC a baseline of 10 legislators – 5 senators and 5 representatives in Colombia’s 2018 elections. As a result, the FARC could potentially follow other demobilized guerrillas’ path to power as with the FMLN in El Salvador, or fade in the political arena as with Colombia’s own M-19.

“Of particular importance is the definition of the new party’s ideological identity. Congressional delegates range from those supporting the adoption of a Marxist/communist identity, to those advocating for a more centrist, social-democratic orientation. If the new party is perceived as too radical, it might find it difficult to build a consistent and large enough base of supporters to become a relevant actor in politics.

“Either way, however, this unique opportunity will probably strengthen Colombia’s democracy. First, it will improve the political representation of previously disaffected sectors. Second, it will also demonstrate to other actors who have not demobilized, as Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN), that embracing a peaceful political path is a real alternative. Third, the new party has the potential of becoming a strong left-of center alternative, which has been generally absent in Colombian politics.”

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.