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Colombian Congress Ratifies New Peace Deal With FARC Rebels


After a false start, it looks like Colombia will at last have peace with FARC rebels. The guerrilla war in Colombia has gone on for half a century. Voters rejected a peace deal earlier this year. Now a new version that does not require a popular vote has been ratified by Columbia's Congress. Nadja Drost is a journalist in Bogota who has spent a lot of time reporting on the FARC. Welcome to the program.

NADJA DROST: Hi, Ari. Thank you for having me on.

SHAPIRO: How is this peace deal different from the one that people voted down in October?

DROST: This peace deal is different because it forces the FARC to be a lot more forthcoming about information they have about narco trafficking - also to declare their ill-gotten assets to contribute reparations to victims of the conflict. But it still does not have some of the fundamental changes that those who've opposed the peace deal had wanted, such as prohibiting the FARC from entering into political life or getting off of jail time.

SHAPIRO: Some of these FARC rebels have lived in the jungle for years, even decades. As they look at this peace deal passing Congress, what do they see as their future?

DROST: It's so interesting because I've been asking FARC members for almost two years now how they envision their individual lives once a peace process is in place, and there are very few who can actually tell me with any kind of personal conviction about what they might want to do personally. They truly think of their lives as one cog in a machine.

And many FARC fighters have said, you know, I'm interested in perhaps having a family, perhaps being a nurse, being a farmer. But all of them have said, I will do whatever directions I received to help keep the FARC alive as a political organization.

SHAPIRO: In one of your recent articles, you wrote about a woman who was a FARC member whose mother claimed she had been killed. She hadn't seen her daughter, who is now a teenager, for most of her daughter's entire life. How does a person like that reintegrate into society, into a family?

DROST: I think it's going to be incredibly difficult because for so many years, FARC rebels have felt that their family is actually not their biological family but their FARC family. It's kind of akin to what we think of when military soldiers come back from war and don't necessarily know how to operate without that support structure of the military.

I think that one of the relationships that a lot of FARC members might be able to have when they're reintegrating into civilian society isn't necessarily the one with the biological families that they left behind but one with communities where they've worked for years. So I think a lot of it is going to depend on, how well do rural communities welcome back FARC members?

SHAPIRO: You mentioned that the FARC, this military group, hopes for a future as a political group. It sounds like Colombian politics may be about to change profoundly.

DROST: Absolutely, and that's really the crux of this peace deal. The FARC have agreed to put down arms on the condition that they can legally participate in politics. But it's not just about them being legal. It's about their political perspectives being accepted. And given that Colombia has a very dark history of political violence, the FARC are very worried that they will be under threat.

And I think that this peace process is basically going to be the biggest test yet of Colombia's democracy if Colombia is prepared to accept a pluralism of voices or if it will keep on persecuting with violence those who think differently.

SHAPIRO: Nadja Drost as a journalist in Bogota, Colombia. Thank you for speaking with us.

DROST: Thank you for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.