At 25 years old, and after being in the ranks of the oldest ex-guerrilla force in the world, the FARC-EP, Andrea Cañaveral is continuing to reintegrate into civil life, a process which, she says, has been very difficult.
Masiel Fernández Bolaños
This is “because the government has not complied with what we signed for”. This is how she explained it to Prensa Latina in reference to the Peace Agreement signed in 2016 between the State and the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP).
She says that they did not “know how to advance proposals; productive, cultural, political projects; how to move forward as individuals, as ex-guerrilla fighters in the process of reintegration and as a society, also on the issue of reconciliation, no more wars, of brotherhood and fighting together for social transformation”. Andrea Cañaveral lives in Medellin, belonging to the (now) Common Alternative Revolutionary Force party (FARC) and is undergoing the process of reintegration into one of the areas that was designated for this in the town of Anorin in the Department of Antioquia.
They are working on a beekeeping project. They are trying, by any means, to market the honey. It has been very difficult due to the issue of gaining trademark licenses and all those types of tasks, but they have gradually entered the trade.
For Cañaveral, being a woman has also made the process of reintegration more complex, “We are reintegrating ourselves into a chauvinistic, patriarchal society where we legally have a voice and a vote, but in practice it is not like this at all. We have women who are abused, assaulted and murdered, for gender-based motives”.
“This also makes society reject us for being women, for being ex-guerrilla fighters and it victimises us as well because they assume we were raped, at the mercy of a commander’s sexual desires. It is like ignorance regarding the history of the FARC-EP”, she says.
Entering the guerrilla forces
At the age of 15, Andrea Cañaveral made the decision to leave for the ranks of the FARC-EP, “because Medellin is a paramilitary city. It is very difficult to do political or cultural work due to persecution against student and union leaders. This persecution put me and my family’s lives at risk”. At that time, she was a student leader and her mother was a union leader. Work united both of them, the student movement with the worker. This is why they arrested her mother. Afterwards, the paramilitaries went after her, which made her join the ranks of the guerrilla forces.
“My mum came out of prison and continued her union work in the cities and I was already in the guerrilla forces. I stayed there for seven years”, she says.
“She,” she adds, “knew of my decision because when I went to join up I went by the prison to say goodbye to her. We didn’t see each other again until the Peace Agreement was signed in 2016. When we demobilised, I could make contact with her and return”.
Cañaveral tells that before leaving for the guerrilla forces, she was studying in ninth grade. “Academic study in Colombia does not teach you critical thinking, this is down to the individual belonging to a society that is ending culturally, one’s own decision to have studied and trained”.
Facing the acts of violence that are happening today in Colombia, Cañaveral expressed that “they have already killed more than 170 of us former fighters”.
“There is a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, anybody could be killed at any time, but we continue the fight to not let doors or life close on us. It has been hard, very difficult, but we are here”, she emphasises.
In her opinion, the government has to advance policies that favour the implementation of the Peace Agreement, “which is like a government platform not only for those reintegrated from the FARC but also for the country in general”.
For example, on the issue of land, which is why they have killed many people: the indigenous people in the Department of Cauca, social leaders defending land restitution. “I think that applying these government platforms that the Agreement brings is fundamental at this point”, she says.
A report by the Agency for Reintegration and Normalisation demonstrated that more than 90% of ex-guerrilla fighters who signed the peace agreement and entered the process of reintegration, have held tight to peace in the territories.
They continue working. However, as another former guerrilla fighter and now senator, Victoria Sandino, said to Prensa Latina, “this does not mean that we are going to let them continue killing us. The work for peace is relentless”. (PL)
(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)