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Some Colombian rebels won't give up the fight despite a peace deal

The announcement by a unit of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that it will not disarm comes with a final peace deal expected within weeks. President Juan Manuel Santos called on the dissidents to think again — or face death or jail.

by Reuters and VICE News
Jul 7 2016, 5:50pm

Imagen por Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo.

A unit of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC, has said it will not respect commitments to demobilize made by the rebels' leadership in a permanent ceasefire agreement signed with the government two weeks ago.

The Armando Ríos First Front's announcement is the first public sign of opposition within rebel ranks to the three-year-old peace process that is expected to deliver a final accord this month.

"We have decided not to demobilize, we will continue the fight for the taking of power by the people for the people, independent of the decision taken by the rest of the members of the organization," the 200-member unit said in a statement on Wednesday.

The First Front — which became internationally known for holding ex-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt for six years, ending in 2008 — is based in the southeastern jungle province of Guaviare and is alleged to have close ties to drug trafficking.

While the undisciplined rebels said they would respect any FARC members who do decide to give up the armed struggle against the state that the Marxist group began in 1964, they made it clear they would welcome any who felt uncomfortable giving up their guns.

"We invite all guerrillas and militia who are not in agreement with demobilization and the laying down of FARC weapons to join forces and continue united as an organization," the statement said.

FARC leaders negotiating the final peace accord in Havana did not immediately respond to the statement from the breakaway unit.

Negotiators from the government's side, however, said that they had always expected some level of rebel resistance and that they hoped FARC leaders could smooth things over as the process continues.

"The FARC negotiators have to travel to the conflict zones to explain the demobilization process to the combatants," Roy Barreras told Caracol Radio on Thursday. "This is just a tiny front that will surely end up complying with the orders from its superiors."

President Juan Manuel Santos was less understanding when he spoke to reporters about the dissidents on Wednesday.

"All of the power of our forces will come down on those who remain outside of this peace process," he said. "Anybody who has any doubt had better set it aside and embrace the peace process because it is the last chance you will have to change your life, and because, I assure you, the only other path leads to the grave or prison."

Related: Colombia's largest rebel group will stop collecting war taxes

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