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Same Old Faces: Rebel FARC Faction Has A Youth Problem

The decision of some prominent members of Colombia's disbanded FARC rebels to resume fighting the government is bad news. But history — and demography — are working against them.

FARC leader Ivan Marquez speaking on Aug. 29
FARC leader Ivan Marquez speaking on Aug. 29
Héctor Abad Faciolince


BOGOTÁ — Colombians should not lose their cool viewing the video released on August 29. The clip shows FARC guerrilla captain and former legislator Iván Márquez, surrounded by an armed retinue, announcing his return to armed activity against the state and rejecting the 2016 peace accords.

Remember what they say: Panic will kill if you in a fire — and fear will drown you on a sinking ship. We may add that when it comes to our political life, with its recurring bouts of alarm, that it is the hue and cry that does the real harm. We should give this development the exact weight it deserves, without either overblowing or underestimating its significance. First and foremost, Iván Márquez (Luciano Marín's nom de guerre) does not represent most of the FARC, and his guerrilla initiative will be a failure, because virtually all Colombians are repelled by any armed struggle today. More than peace itself, the narrative of peace has proven a success, and this new uprising goes straight against the course of history.

You need more than a posse of 50 and 60-year-old captains to wage war.

I patiently watched the 32 minutes of the manifesto Márquez read out loud, supposedly by the river Inírida (though it was not shown), which means in the middle of nowhere. Sixteen men and four women stood before the camera. Their uniforms were not made of the same cloth and their footwear differed, though they were mostly rubber boots. Their weapons were of different types and most of those pictured, bar two women, were middle-aged. Indeed most were overweight and in cases, their bellies were close to snapping open the buttons on their fatigues.

If decades of armed fighting here — not to mention wars abroad or even a film like Monkeys — have shown us one thing, it is that you need more than a posse of 50 and 60-year-olds and aging captains to wage war. You need youngsters and especially boys just out of childhood, foolishly unaware of their mortality or brazenly indifferent to it. These are the unfailing cannon fodder of wars. And what you notice with the band on the video is a massive scarcity of youngsters.

FARC leader Iván Márquez speaking on Aug. 29 — Source: Noticias Caracol

One of the causes of the prolongation of war in Colombia was that it coincided with a demographic period in which there were more teenagers than ever before in our nation's history. This is not the case today and the more boys and girls the country can lead into education and toward hope, the fewer that FARC can recruit.

With his usual, cynical euphemisms, Márquez announced his little army's operational methods. He ruled out all "detentions with economic objectives' (meaning kidnappings for ransom), and assured that "we shall give priority to dialogue with businesspeople, livestock farmers, traders and respectable folk in this country in seeking their contribution that way" (meaning, they are opting instead for extortion and threats), toward their war "taxes." The new guerrillas, he said, would also take a share of "illegal economic activity" (read drug trafficking and unlicensed mining). These are the activities and sources of guerrilla money against which state and intelligence agencies must act.

This is how the traitors to peace must be fought.

It would not be fair in any case to concede the entire arena to those who refuse or blatantly betray the peace accords. Other leaders, senators and representatives of the disarmed guerrilla army are fulfilling their pledges and are active in politics and take part in discourse and dialogue. The FARC's former supreme leader, Rodrigo Londoño, remains loyal to peace. Victoria Sandino, Sandra Ramírez (widow of the late guerrilla leader Manuel Marulanda), Carlos Antonio Losada and others are defending their convictions peacefully. And behind them are more than 10,000 demobilized fighters, many of them very young, who have placed their hopes on a peaceful, dignified life if the peace accords are honored. Many are studying, graduating and working on local projects.

This is how the traitors to peace must be fought. Absurd though it may sound, this government must now become the first defender of the accords, because the traitors have achieved something very important: to legitimate those who have kept their word.

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A Naturalist's Defense Of The Modern Zoo

Zoos are often associated with animal cruelty, or at the very least a general animal unhappiness. But on everything from research to education to biodiversity, there is a case to be made for the modern zoo.

Photograph of a brown monkey holding onto a wired fence

A brown monkey hangs off of mesh wire

Marina Chocobar/Pexels
Fran Sánchez Becerril


MADRID — Zoos — or at least something resembling the traditional idea of a zoo — date back to ancient Mesopotamia. It was around 3,500 BC when Babylonian kings housed wild animals such as lions and birds of prey in beautiful structures known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Ancient China also played a significant role in the history of zoos when the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) created several parks which hosted an assortment of animals.

In Europe, it wouldn't be until 1664 when Louis XIV inaugurated the royal menagerie at Versailles. All these spaces shared the mission of showcasing the wealth and power of the ruler, or simply served as decorations. Furthermore, none of them were open to the general public; only a few fortunate individuals, usually the upper classes, had access.

The first modern zoo, conceived for educational purposes in Vienna, opened in 1765. Over time, the educational mission has become more prominent, as the exhibition of exotic animals has been complemented with scientific studies, conservation and the protection of threatened species.

For decades, zoos have been places of leisure, wonder, and discovery for both the young and the old. Despite their past success, in recent years, society's view of zoos has been changing due to increased awareness of animal welfare, shifting sensibilities and the possibility of learning about wild animals through screens. So, many people wonder: What is the purpose of a zoo in the 21st century?

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