Domingo, 11 de diciembre de 2016

| 2009/10/30 00:00

Why Colombia's Leftist Guerrillas Are Defecting

Oct 30--At a ramshackle radio station nestled in former guerrilla territory, a Colombian soldier-DJ dedicates a country-and-western-style ballad to all the rebels out there having second thoughts about la revolución. In the song, a former guerrilla touts the benefits of disarming. "My life has changed," he declares. "Now I've got a girlfriend. I'm with my family. I give thanks to God."

Why Colombia's Leftist Guerrillas Are Defecting

The message-laden music is part of an army propaganda blitz that includes radio spots, billboards and leaflets dropped by helicopter. Guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — the nation's largest rebel group, known as the FARC — are told that by turning themselves in, their sins will be forgiven and they can start anew. The campaign is one of the pillars of a broader U.S.-backed military offensive that has driven the FARC out of the most important areas of Colombia and cut the size of the rebel army in half. Since President Alvaro Uribe was first elected in 2002, more than 12,000 FARC fighters have demobilized, including a record 3,027 last year, according to the Colombian army. And because they made the decision to desert on their own, the former guerrillas are more likely to remain on the war's sidelines. (See pictures of FARC guerrillas in their jungle redoubts.)

That hasn't always been the case on the other side. Since 2003, about 30,000 right-wing paramilitary fighters who battled the FARC have disarmed. But the bulk of the paramilitaries were ordered by their commanders to lay down their weapons en masse as part of a peace process with the Bogotá government. Some did so only grudgingly and have since formed new militias that are dedicated to drug-trafficking. "If they haven't changed or don't want to change, it's much easier for these fighters to fall back into their former lifestyle," says Mariana Díaz Kraus of the Bogotá think tank Ideas for Peace. (Read "If Colombia Is Winning Its War, Why the Fleeing?")

By contrast, as the army hammers rebel positions, many of the FARC deserters say they were desperate to get out. "Every day it's one or two deaths in combat or five or six deaths in a bombing," says a 21-year-old former rebel explosives expert who goes by the nom de guerre Visages. "Many rebels decide that they better get out before it happens to them."
 
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