After 50 years of war, Colombian rebels look to politics

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File photo of Colombian commander Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda Velez of the FARC talking to reporters in Los PozosBy Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta MARQUETALIA, Colombia (Reuters) – From shallow trenches carved into an isolated mountain range, Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda led a long battle against thousands of U.S.-backed troops seeking to wrest control of the area from his small band of peasant fighters. The ground and air onslaught lasted four months but Marulanda and his 47 combatants survived it, finally escaped through the tree-covered mountains of Marquetalia and went on to form the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Critics say the FARC’s Marxist rhetoric is too entrenched to attract popular support, but sympathizers say its leaders are shrewder than given credit for and could morph into a leftist movement with electoral appeal. “Democratically, that’s the key word,” said coffee farmer Oswaldo Vanegas as he bought unrefined sugar in Gaitania, a hamlet close to Marquetalia, the FARC’s birthplace, in central Colombia.

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