<i>Rebel deserter "Karina" is escorted by police officers to a new conference at the DAS headquarters in Bogota. (John Vizcaino / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"Elda Neyis Mosquera, also known as Karina, demobilized in 2008 at age 45, after 24 years with the FARC. The only female to reach the rank of front commander in her day, she is accused of killing some 200 military officials, police, and civilians. She is also charged with conducting dehumanizing treatment of prisoners and dismembering corpses."
<i>Colombian Task Force soldiers patrol in the jungles of Vista Hermosa Meta, near a FARC camp. (Mauricio Moreno Valdes / Flickr)</i></br>"Elda strove to become 'the best guerrilla' and was constantly terrified of being accused of weakness or sloth. At 17, her commander, Efrain Guzman (nicknamed Friopacho) sent her to Meta, a district in the center of Colombia, just east of the Andes, to enroll in military and officer training. Elda excelled at the FARC's curso de commandantes and was given command of a 12-man squad three months after she arrived."
<i>A guerrilla woman holds her AK-47 Fusil. (Jose Gomez / Courtesy Reuters)</i></br>"In the eyes of the FARC leadership, Elda’s methods and drive were worthy of promotion. In 2000, she assumed the command of the 47th Front, which operated in western Antioquia and was comprised of more than 100 guerrillas."
<i>FARC flag illustration.</i></br>"Elda and Ivan Rios, her commanding officer, fought regularly. She recalls one argument in particular that occurred shortly after Rios returned from ideology training in Cuba. He gave an officers' lecture describing how a state is formed. He used Colombia as an example. This shocked Elda, because she had never known that Colombia actually had three branches of government and a constitution. She had no idea that the Republic of Colombia was, in fact, a democracy and that she could, in theory, elect members of congress who would represent her and the campesinos for whom she fought. The revelation that she had been lied to for so many years enraged her."
<i>FARC flag illustration.</i></br>"Elda and Ivan Rios, her commanding officer, fought regularly. She recalls one argument in particular that occurred shortly after Rios returned from ideology training in Cuba. He gave an officers' lecture describing how a state is formed. He used Colombia as an example. This shocked Elda, because she had never known that Colombia actually had three branches of government and a constitution. She had no idea that the Republic of Colombia was, in fact, a democracy and that she could, in theory, elect members of congress who would represent her and the campesinos for whom she fought. The revelation that she had been lied to for so many years enraged her."
<i>A"mi proyecto de vida" board at a safe house. (Anne Phillips)</i></br>"While waiting to graduate to the final stage of the demobilization program, guerrillas' movement outside the safe house is severely restricted. They are provided clothes, food, shelter, and medical services, along with minimal psychological counseling. They are asked to plan out a new life on a sheet of paper called mi proyecto de vida, which outlines whether they can return home to family members, what sort of job training they would like to receive, and what their other life goals are."
<i>A former FARC member now owns Colfepaz, a small tailoring company in Bogotá, where he gives sewing tips to his youngest daughter, who grew up amid Colombia’s internal conflict. (Juan Carlos Rocha / Flickr)</i></br>Since the DDR’s inception, 54,598 fighters have enrolled in it… There are some inspiring success stories. Unfortunately, however, there are many more men and women who do not make it through the program successfully.
<i>A vigil in Bogota. (Natalia Diaz / Flickr)</i></br> "And, as Elda argues, successfully demobilized and reintegrated fighters should participate in the DDR program as role models. 'Después de todo,' the former fighter said, 'somos todos gestores de paz.' ('After all, we are all incubators of peace.') Those who meet this month and next to negotiate an end to Colombia’s almost five-decade-long struggle with the FARC should remember that."

Gallery: The Warriors

As the Colombian government sits down with FARC for formal peace negotiations this month, reports about the talks abound. Curiously missing, however, is any discussion of Bogota's nine-year-old program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate rebels and whether it is equipped to bring thousands of remaining FARC guerrillas back into society should a peace agreement be reached.

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