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The BBC's Matt Cole
"Calls for a new political environment"
 real 28k

Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 05:57 GMT 06:57 UK
Colombia rebels create political party
Colombia rebels
Rebels raised machine guns to demonstrate support for the party
In Colombia, thousands of supporters of the main left-wing rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have attended an inauguration ceremony for their new political party.

The party has been named the Bolivarian Movement, after the South American independence hero, Simon Bolivar.

Its leaders say it will operate in secrecy to protect itself from right-wing revenge attacks.

During peace moves in the 1980s, an estimated 2,000 members of the FARC's political wing were killed by death squads.

Wealth distribution

Party chairman Alfonso Cano called for a new political environment and a better distribution of wealth in the country.

"Columbia is gravely ill because its liberal and conservative political leaders have used their posts to favour the rich...waging a dirty war to stay in power," the movement's manifesto said.


Columbia
Manuel Marulanda, FARC's founder and commander
Correspondents say the FARC is trying to carve out a constituency among the many Colombians living in poverty and the record numbers of unemployed.

At the ceremony, rebel leaders urged their audience of 20,000 workers and peasants to join the organisation.

Minimal support

But correspondents say the movement enjoys only minimal support.

And the authorities fear the clandestine movement could become a "party of war."

It numbers thousands of Marxist guerrillas among its membership.

Rebels at the ceremony brandished automatic assault rifles and held up banners with revolutionary slogans as they celebrated the birth of their party.

The Bolivarian Movement's leaders are currently in slow-moving talks with the Colombian government to end a war, which has cost 35,000 lives in 10 years.

But correspondents say it is unlikely to become a bona fide political party, as it has no plans to stand in any forthcoming elections.

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20 Apr 00 | Americas
Colombia closer to peace
14 Apr 00 | Americas
Colombia peace hopes raised
28 Mar 00 | Americas
Colombia rebels kill 30
09 Feb 00 | Americas
Colombian peace talks positive
25 Oct 99 | Americas
Millions march for Colombia peace
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