Colombia has gone through a lot of healing in the past two decades. More than 260,000 people were killed and eight million displaced during the insurgency that took place from 1958 until 2016 when the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the armed wing of the Communist Party, signed a peace accord with the government. But the recent revelations that in 1995 the FARC had assassinated a presidential candidate threatens to undermine the progress that has been made. 

The shooting of Colombian Conservative presidential candidate Alvaro Gomez Hurtado was believed to be the work of his political rivals in cooperation with narco-traffickers. But now, the FARC has claimed responsibility for the assassination. 

 

The stunning admission was made in a letter to the Special Justice for Peace (JEP) tribunal. JEP is tasked with investigating crimes committed during FARC’s insurgency.

The letter to the JEP was signed by former rebel commanders Julian Gallo, Pastor Alape, and Pablo Catatumbo. Gallo and Catatumbo, currently have seats in congress.

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Gomez Hurtado was a three-time presidential candidate and son of a former president. He was gunned down outside a university building by two men on a motorcycle (the M.O. of the drug traffickers) in Bogota back on November 2, 1995.

Gomez Hurtado was running against liberal President Ernesto Samper. At the time, Samper was facing a serious scandal over the financing of his campaign by the drug cartels. The cartels had been wreaking havoc in the country; they were under threats of extradition to the United States to stand trial for trafficking. 

JEP said in a statement that the letter aimed to “tell the truth, clarify the facts and take responsibility” for several killings between 1987 and 2002.

Earlier this week, Gallo acknowledged that he had ordered the assassination of Gomez on instructions from his FARC superiors.

Hurtado’s murder was the highest-profile one conducted by the FARC during that period. The murders of lawmaker Pablo Emilio Guarin in 1987, army general Fernando Landazabal Reyes in 1998, and former peace adviser Jesus Antonio Bejarano in 1999 were also included on the list.

As part of the 2016 peace agreement, FARC rebels turned in their weapons and formed a political party. In return, they were given nine seats in Congress. Under the deal, the group’s leaders pledged to confess their crimes before the JEP and to compensate their victims. If they failed to keep their part of the agreement, they could be tried.

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However, the seriousness of this admission has President Ivan Duque of Colombia calling for the expulsion of the two former FARC leaders from Congress. Duque was a sharp critic of the peace agreement with the FARC. 

During an event in Bogota on Wednesday, Duque said that given the seriousness of the crime, they “should immediately lose the connotation of being a member of Congress.” He added that the pair should resign voluntarily so as not to “re-victimize” Gomez’s family.

President Duque said that if the two former FARC members don’t step down voluntarily, his hopes were that the justice system would act to strip the ex-FARC commanders of their “parliamentary representation.”