YARI PLAINS, Colombia (AP) — Leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia pledged their unanimous support on Friday to a peace agreement reached last month with the government.
The announcement capped off a week of deliberations on a remote savannah in southern Colombia in which the guerrillas attempted to present themselves in a new light to skeptical Colombians who blame them for decades of bloody violence.
In concerts featuring rebel rap artists, conferences on the FARC's care for the environment and interviews with international media who were invited to attend the normally clandestine conference for the first time, rebel leaders largely shunned the antagonizing, ideological rhetoric Colombians have grown to expect from them to embrace a softer, more inclusive image.
"The war is over," a FARC leader known by his alias Ivan Marquez said at a closing news conference.
"Tell Mauricio Babilonia that he can let loose the yellow butterflies," said Marquez, referring to a fictional character in Nobel prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "100 Hundred Years of Solitude."
Marquez said the FARC would form a political party no later than May 2017. Many Colombians had been hoping for more details about the FARC's transition to a political movement once it turns over its weapons to U.N.-sponsored observers over the next six months, such as its name or candidates to occupy 10 specially-reserved seats in congress.
President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC leader known as Timochenko are expected to sign the agreement Monday in the Caribbean city of Cartagena in an event that will be attended by more than a dozen regional heads of state, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Timochenko, addressing guerrillas at a closing ceremony Friday, made a special appeal to the millions of victims of the half-century conflict, saying that in addition to an end of hostilities they'll benefit from learning the truth about what happened to their loved ones.
"Finally we'll have a second opportunity on Earth," he said.