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After half of century of fighting in the jungles and mountains of Colombia, the country’s biggest and best-known guerrilla group, the FARC, announced its transformation into a political party this week, vowing to respect the rules of democracy while sticking to its leftwing principles.
The party will still be known as the FARC but its name has changed. Rather than being the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, it will now be the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force.
Its symbol, unveiled at a packed news conference at a hotel in Bogotá on Friday, will be a red rose — strikingly similar to those of the British Labour party and the Spanish socialist party, the PSOE.
“Maybe for some the FARC initials have a negative connotation but at the same time they represent our collective history and our revolutionary past,” Ivan Márquez, one of the Farc’s leaders, told reporters.
“We want people, when they see the rose, to associate it with us and see the FARC,” he said, holding up a single red flower for the cameras. “The rose is a very positive image. The rose is beautiful. The rose means love. The rose means friendship and an open heart.”
Mr Márquez said the new party would compete in congressional elections next year and has bold ambitions.
“We have entered legal political life because we want to be the government or part of it,” he said.
The party’s launch marks a remarkable metamorphosis. Formed in 1964 as a Marxist guerrilla movement, the FARC became one of the most feared and powerful armed groups in the world. At its height in the 1990s, it numbered about 20,000 men and controlled vast swaths of the country, even encircling the capital.