FARC leader to run for president in Colombia

FARC leader to run for president in Colombia

FARC leader to run for president in Colombia

FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known by his nickname ‘Timochenko,’ speaks during the launching of the new political party on Sept 1.

Colombia’s FARC -- a political party formed from a former rebel group following a historic peace deal -- said on Nov. 1 it was fielding its leader as a candidate in next year’s presidential elections.

Rodrigo Londono, 58, better known by his nickname “Timochenko,” will be the party’s choice for the polls, a FARC spokesman told a news conference. The first round of voting is scheduled for May 2018.

Timochenko was previously the supreme commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- FARC in Spanish -- a Marxist guerrilla group that for half a century battled the government and right-wing paramilitaries.

The conflict, marked by kidnappings and disappearances, left some 260,000 people dead, 60,000 unaccounted for and seven million displaced.

The FARC rebels agreed in 2016 to a landmark peace deal with the government. It disarmed and in September transformed itself into a political party, keeping the same initials but changing its official name to the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force.

Just ahead of the political FARC’s founding congress in August, Timochenko -- who suffered a temporary arterial brain blockage in July, impeding his speech -- had ruled out the party putting forward a presidential candidate next year.

But the party named Timochenko its leader, and with the recent announcement showed it changed its mind, and intended to have him try to succeed current President Juan Manuel Santos, who is ineligible to stand for re-election.

Timochenko was not present at the news conference declaring his candidacy.

He stayed away for “health reasons,” a FARC official, Marco Calarca, told AFP, but added that the party leader had a medical green light to contest the elections.

Instead the FARC chief’s Twitter account posted the message: “For landless peasants, young people with no opportunities, we are launching our candidacy.”

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