Colombia’s Epic War Is Ending. Now Comes the Hard Part. By Kejal Vya, photographs by Carlos Villalon, Wall Street Journal
CALAMAR, Colombia - For years now, the guerrillas of the so-called First Front of the FARC rebel group survived aerial bombings and firefights, measly rations and nightly battles with armies of red ants that crawled into their makeshift jungle beds.
But for them and many of the 6,800 FARC combatants scattered across Colombia’s hinterland, a new and, in some ways, more daunting phase lies just ahead: peace. “Our world is about to be turned upside down,” said Carolina Torres, 37, a guerrilla for 22 years who serves as a nurse in the First Front.
Fifty-two years after the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, took up arms, the guerrillas who once dreamed of seizing power are at a crossroads as their commanders close in on a peace deal with their onetime sworn enemy, Colombia’s government. Both sides agreed last month, after 3½ years of negotiations in Cuba, to a permanent cease-fire as part of a blueprint for the FARC’s demobilization, which would help end the world’s oldest-running armed conflict.
In peace, the group’s supreme leaders—some of them communists schooled in the old Soviet Bloc—will lead a new political party. But the grunts who for years skirmished with antiguerrilla troops fear the prospect of disarming and reintegrating into mainstream society, dozens of rebels told The Wall Street Journal during a recent week of discussions in their jungle camp here in this country’s southeast.
Many of the rebels, gangly 20-somethings who have never been to a city or studied anything beyond combat tactics and Leninist doctrine, said they were distrustful of the peace process. Some warned they would go rogue if the transition didn’t work for them—not an idle threat in a country where other disbanded insurgent groups morphed into drug gangs…