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  • Jesus Santrich arrives to a plenary session for the first time as a lawmaker at the Congress in Bogota, Colombia June 12, 2019.

    Jesus Santrich arrives to a plenary session for the first time as a lawmaker at the Congress in Bogota, Colombia June 12, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 June 2019

FARC described it as a "fundamental" milestone in the Colombian peace process.

Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons (FARC) leader Jesus Santrich arrived at a joint session of the Colombian Congress for the first time and began performing his duties as a lawmaker, a position the National Electoral Council (CNE) granted him as part of the 2016 peace agreement.

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The FARC lawmaker assumed his new post after regaining his freedom on May 30, after 416 days imprisonment which was prompted by a U.S. extradition request for his alleged participation in drug trafficking.

Santrich, who took oath as a lawmaker on June 11, was part of the political team that negotiated with the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) a peace agreement which allowed the oldest Latin American guerrilla to become a political party and granted it 10 seats in Congress for the next eight years.

Last week, the Colombian Supreme Court recognized the ex-guerrilla's parliamentary jurisdiction and ordered his release from prison.

Regarding Santrich's participation in the legislative body, far-right President Ivan Duque, who was reluctant to approve the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), made comments portraying the FARC leader as a "mafioso" who should be tried instead of becoming a lawmaker.

"Today Santrich voted YES to the Censorship Motion against the Defense Minister who represents war and, above all, the causes that originated the armed conflict. Botero is politically responsible, by omission, for the genocide against social leaders and ex-combatants."

The FARC party strongly rejected Duque's statements about Santrich because they prejudge and verge on insult. "We call on President Duque to respect the constitutional guarantees, to not make parallel judgments and above all to not allow the proliferation of hatred climate which does not benefit Colombians at all."

According to the former guerilla movement, the disqualification of its militants must be appreciated in the context of the warnings that the U.N. rapporteurs have made regarding speeches that disregard constitutional guarantees and are detrimental to peace and stability in Colombia.

The FARC National Political Council celebrated Santrich's swearing-in and described it as a "fundamental" milestone in the "implementation of the peace agreement with legal and physical guarantees for all ex-combatants."

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