On Tuesday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group officially disarmed, handing over the last of its 7,132 weapons to United Nations officials overseeing the peace deal FARC leaders signed with President Juan Manuel Santos last year, and giving the U.N. the coordinates to 900 weapons caches hidden around Colombia. Santos attended the demilitarization ceremony in the rural town of Mesetas, as did FARC commander Rodrigo Londono, or Timochenko, and 2,000 other former FARC guerrillas, local officials, and supporters of the controversial peace accord.
The FARC has "exchanged arms for words," and "peace is irreversible," Santos told the crowd. "Now we are just one people, just one nation. Long live peace." Londono focused on his movement's transition from paramilitary to political group, guaranteed 10 seats in Congress for two terms, starting in 2018. "Today doesn't end the existence of the FARC, it merely replaces the armed struggle with exclusively legal means," Londono said, explaining that the group's goal is the same — attaining power — even if its methods were different.
Such a disarmament by FARC rebels and beginning of a transition to civil society "once seemed unimaginable," the Los Angeles Times notes. Still, "although violence has decreased, Colombia is not yet tranquil." About 250 FARC guerrillas won't disarm, and the 1,000-member National Liberation Army (ELN) is still at war with Colombia, as are drug cartels. Also, Santos' political rivals are vowing to amend or undo the peace deal, and lots of things could still go awry. Tuesday's ceremony was a "day of joy" and a clear step toward a "more inclusive and peaceful Colombia," says Lisa Haugaar at the U.S. human rights group Latin America Working Group. "But everyone must play their part to have real peace, or this chance will be lost for another generation."