Colombian rebels have handed over almost all weapons

Luis Acosta

The leader of Colombia's leftist FARC rebels formally declared the force's historic disarmament complete on Tuesday at a ceremony to mark the end of the UN-supervised process.

United Nations monitors in the country said on Monday that the arms handover had been completed a day ahead of a revised schedule.

The peace agreement is a landmark event in Colombia's history as it attempts to conclude Latin America's longest-running conflict that has spanned well over 50 years and taken almost 260,000 lives. The accord had at first been narrowly rejected by Colombians in a referendum previous year before it was redrafted and pushed through congress.

The monitors said they had also found and emptied 77 out of the Farc's 900 arms caches hidden around the countryside.

"This is a peace that allows better education, health, housing and more opportunities for Colombians", Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, launching the hashtag "Viva La Vida", meaning "live life" in English, to celebrate a new chapter of Colombia's history.

They are expected to change their name, as the long-standing acronym stands for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. From there, rank and file rebels will begin their transition back to civilian life.

Some of them will get amnesty or reduced sentences for crimes committed during the conflict.




The conflict drew in leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and state forces.

The FARC and the government have promised to stamp out the drug production that has fueled the conflict.

It has left 260,000 people confirmed dead, more than 60,000 missing and seven million displaced.

Colombia's internal conflict broke out in 1964 over land rights issues and pitted FARC and other left-wing rebels against the military, police and right-wing paramilitary groups. The United Nations say that leftist rebels in Colombia have turned over nearly all of their fighters' individual weapons as part of a historic peace deal reached with the government a year ago.

The ELN started talks with the government in February, but has been blamed for ongoing confrontations with state forces. The FARC has pledged to use its assets to compensate victims.

Three women were killed at a shopping center in Bogota on June 17, in a bombing blamed on a fringe extremist group. "What's more important is we are witnessing step after step the willingness of the FARC to really demobilize and reintegrate and that should be reinforced by the state and government in fulfilling the promises and agreements signed".

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