El Espectador, Sep. 6, 2017
Pope Francis begins a five-day visit Wednesday in Colombia, as the country looks to move beyond decades of armed conflict between leftist rebels and the government. The front page of the Bogotá daily El Espectador headlines: "The Pope arrives in a divided country."
Just over a year ago, the Colombian government and leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas reached a historic deal to end more than a half-century of civil war. Shortly afterwards, however, voters narrowly defeated a referendum meant to ratify to accord.
Determined to push forward with the peace process, President Juan Manuel Santos oversaw modifications to the deal that the country's Congress approved in December. Earlier this year, FARC fighters began a process of disarmament and in late June handed over the last of their weapons.
The former rebels are now in the process of reinventing themselves as a formal political party. Leaders unveiled the name of the new party late last week. Controversially, the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común, in Spanish), as it's known, will retain the FARC acronym.
A powerful pro-war lobby led by former President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) continues to oppose the peace process, which for all its advances, is still fragile. The FARC's last attempt to enter formal politics — with the creation, in the mid 1980s, of the Patriotic Union (UP)— ended in bloodshed as many of the party's members and chosen representatives were killed off.
Aboard the Rome-Bogotá flight, Pope Francis described his visit to Colombia as "special" and said he wants to help the country "move forward."