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Some ex-FARC guerrillas have become Colombian tour guides

Ifeel like Float over the nave of the flooded cathedral. Steep rock walls rise from calm, murky waters, echoing with dripping vines and quacking parrots. The river then widens and speeds up, occasionally blocked by boulders and requiring bicep-burning bursts of stroke to turn. Waves of cold water lap the raft as it bounces in the foamy rapids. Eventually, it coasted to a halt on the beach, where a local family waited with sugar cane and guava juice. “We traded our rifles for oars,” laughs a wet Frellin Noreña as he steers the raft, passing war in name of pato, or duck. “Prefer war to peace, you must be crazy.”

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Mr. Noreña is a former fighter of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (farce), a guerrilla. Some 7,000 of his comrades gave up their arms after a peace deal was struck in 2016, officially ending the longest civil conflict in the Western Hemisphere. He now works as a guide for Caguán Expeditions, taking tourists down rivers near Miravalle in Caquetá, a remote corner of Colombia that has been largely untouched by outsiders for decades There.Depend on United Nationsan initiative aimed at reintegrating former guerrillas into society by making better use of their knowledge of the Amazon region.

Several such projects exist. As part of Tierra Grata Ecotours in La Paz, a small town near the Venezuelan border, the former guerrilla offers bird watching, hiking and hearty campfire meals.After two days of hiking along dirt trails, Jhonni Giraldo, ex farce The infantry leads the tenacious tourists to the small village of Marquetalia. In 1964, the military bombed and wiped out an armed commune established here by refugees; survivors traveled to the mountains and farce Rebellion was born. Not much to see other than the rusted wreckage of a downed helicopter. Mr. Giraldo is considering rebuilding the house of Manuel Marulanda, a farce.

Staying with local farmers offers visitors a window into the persistent poverty that the 2016 agreement was supposed to address. There are no roads and doctors rarely visit, said Fredy Conde, who laboriously transports cheese on mules to sell at local markets. “In Colombia, the countryside is abandoned.” Live farce Resettlement camps set up to rehabilitate ex-combatants following the peace deal also offer a glimpse into the pressures of demobilization. Miravalle, painted with frescoes farce Leader and perched above a lush valley, it has a fish farm, an organic greenhouse and a small museum and rafting program. The rowing rebel has even raced in Australia.

But some river guides have decided to work as bodyguards for their predecessors instead commandersaid Mr Noreña (approximately 300 demobilized farce fighters have been killed since 2016). Many still look up to their former commander, Hernán Darío Velásquez, better known as El Paisa, who abandoned Miravalle in 2018 with several The man returned to the jungle, leaving behind his girlfriend and young child. Sebastián Velásquez of the Colombian Federation countered reports that El Paisa, who was killed in Venezuela last December, was a drug trafficker who killed dozens of civilians. farce victim, a non-governmental organization.

Partly because this tension persists, these formerfarce The move is unlikely to be a bright spot on the international travel itinerary. So far, only 10 percent of Caguán Expeditions’ clients are foreigners, Mr. Noreña said. Whitewater rafting in San Gil, a seven-hour drive from the capital, is even more exhilarating, he admits. The Marquetalia Route will mostly appeal to history buffs and coffee fanatics (the area’s volcanic slopes are heaved by these things).

battle scars

But the moves have put some families on the right track. This is no small matter for a country where the scars of armed conflict are still fresh. The Colombian Truth Commission, established in 2016 as part of the peace deal, found in its final report on June 28 that more than 450,000 people were killed between 1985 and 2018 — double previous estimates.Paramilitaries, often linked to business elites and landowners, were responsible for nearly half of the killings; this farce and smaller rebel groups, a quarter. Some 7 million people fled their homes.

The newly elected leftist president, Gustavo Petro—himself a former guerrilla, with the rice-19 Group – has pledged to implement the committee’s recommendations, including reforming the armed forces and regulating the drug trade. Even one member of the squad who had brief contact with Mr Giraldo on the road to Marquetaria believes the state has so far failed to deliver on its promise of rural development. “Conflict doesn’t benefit anyone,” said the former rebel, as he trudged up the hill to get back to where it all started. The soldier agrees. “Not for civilians, not for government.”

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