Rodrigo Londono, aka “Tymoshenko”, made his mea culpa on Tuesday after listening to the victims of the former FARC guerrillas he led to the 2016 peace agreement with the Colombian government. The testimony of former French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt “influenced” her conversion in particular.
Rodrigo Londono apologizes. The former guerrilla leader of the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces), who signed a peace deal with the government in 2016, said on Tuesday (September 15) that he had come to “hate” his organization for the atrocities committed during five decades of conflict.
The leader of the most powerful guerrilla on the American continent reiterated Monday’s demand for a public apology for the more than 20,000 kidnappings carried out by the organization and the recruitment of minors in its ranks.
“The kidnapping was a very serious mistake that we can only regret,” the leadership of what is now a political party called the Common Revolutionary Alternative Force said in a statement on Monday. It was the strongest request for forgiveness expressed by the ex-guerrillas since a peace agreement was signed in 2016 with the Colombian government.
Listening to the victims and acknowledging the truth about what happened, “I will hate the FARC I have in front of me and which is not something I agreed with,” Rodrigo Londono, aka “Tymoshenko,” said in a radio interview. “We do our introspection (…) we internalize things, it is difficult when we have defended something for so many years, that we believed in it and that we have to say that we were wrong, that it was wrong,” the leader admitted .
The FARC was founded in 1964 and acknowledged that the “kidnappings (….) wounded to death” the “legitimacy and credibility” of the armed uprising against the Colombian state and expressed its regret for the “pain” and “humiliation” inflicted on the victims. “This burden (…) today weighs on the conscience and heart of all of us,” the press release added.
The former guerrillas are responsible for their actions before a special peace court (JEP) created by the peace agreement that enabled the demobilization of about 13,000 FARC rebels, including 7,000 combatants.
Testimony of Ingrid Betancourt
The main ex-guerrilla leaders promised to admit their crimes to the JEP and to compensate the victims or their families in exchange for alternative prisons. If they do not keep their commitment, they will face ordinary justice.
Tymoshenko said he was “struck” by the “generosity of the victims” and stressed that the gripping testimony of Ingrid Betancourt, Monday in video conference before the JEP, “affected” his conversion.
The French-Colombian, kidnapped by the FARC, testified about the six years she spent in the hands of the rebels. “The kidnapping has no expiration date, it does not end on the day of release. It is murder because the person who undergoes it, even if they are lucky enough to be released, is already someone else when she comes out of captivity, says the former presidential candidate, who was released during a military operation in 2008.
The previous uprising must also be responsible for the recruitment of thousands of children and young people during more than half a century of armed conflict. Rodrigo Londono admitted that these forced hires were “a mistake”.