Rebels could become guides, cheesemakers in post-war Colombia

Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:21am EDT
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By Julia Symmes Cobb and Nelson Bocanegra

EL DIAMANTE, Colombia (Reuters) - Veterans of Colombia's FARC guerrilla army could soon be making a living as eco-tourism guides, beef processors or cheese makers under plans by the Marxist group to invest in economic projects once a peace deal takes hold.

Vast swathes of rural land abandoned for decades because of war will be open to development, including by ex-fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) working on communal farms and other initiatives funded by the group.

President Juan Manuel Santos and top rebel leader Timochenko signed peace on Monday, ending a 52-year-old conflict that killed more than 220,000 people and forced millions more from their homes.

The deal will be put to a public vote on Oct. 2 and is expected to be approved.

The economic projects, many planned for the future and some already functioning, will be run by the FARC to provide jobs to some of its 7,000 former fighters.

Financing will come from the FARC's own funds and demobilization money earmarked for individual ex-rebels under the peace agreement.

Many fighters have little education and come from poor, rural families so they need employment options to resist the profitable pull of drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.

"We have to be involved in the economy," FARC commander Mauricio Jaramillo told Reuters in the jungle outpost of El Diamante, southern Caqueta province.    Continued...

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (C) and Vice President German Vargas Lleras shake hands with citizens during a major demonstration in favour of the agreement, in Barranquilla, Colombia, September 27, 2016.  Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters.