Former members of Colombian guerrilla group Farc have set up their own jungle hotel – complete with plastic shacks and rice stew.
Ex-fighters say the attraction will offer visitors an authentic taste of rebel life, and are preparing a menu consisting of basic food cooked on a makeshift oven.
Leaders of the left-wing paramilitary force, which signed a peace accord with the national government last November, hope it will also create jobs.
The one-storey hotel, called Casa Verde (Green House), has been set up near La Guajira, in eastern Meta province
Former members of Farc, full name the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, are given 620,000 Colombian pesos (£160) each month for two years to help move into civilian life, and many choose to invest this cash into business new ventures.
The one-storey hotel, called Casa Verde (Green House), has been set up near La Guajira, in eastern Meta province, reported the BBC’s Natalio Cosoy.
In common with many other business projects set up by former rebels, it is based in a former Farc stronghold.
Einer López, an ex-Farc commander, said the hotel was intended to provide a realistic representation of rebel life.
‘We will build basic shacks, like the ones we used to live in, with a plastic sheet, some palm leaves and a mosquito net,’ he said.
Dishes on offer at the hotel include wheat-based fried tortilla cancharina fariana and the carbohydrate-heavy guerrilla rice, which can be easily prepared on a makeshift stove.
In common with many other business projects set up by former rebels, the area is a former Farc stronghold. Pictured: Former fighters clearing fields in the jungle for the hotel
It is the latest venture by the Colombian rebel group, who have also launched a television show hosted by a woman who was sentenced to 27 years in jail for her role in a car bombing.
Marilu Ramirez works for Nueva Colombia Noticias, a budding video network that aims to offer an alternative to what some see as a media landscape crowded with biased, traditional outlets.
One year after the signing of the accord, the ex-combatants are living in a hotel paid for by the Colombian government, teaching themselves how to operate cameras and gearing up to launch a daily newscast.
Their audience is still minuscule, but they hope to attract a large, loyal following by focusing on stories from the places they know best: remote parts of Colombia long neglected by state and establishment media networks alike.
‘We want to give a voice to those who have been living for decades in silence, but experiencing firsthand the state’s neglect,’ Ramirez said after a recent taping of her debate show, ‘La Mesa Caliente’ (The Hot Table).
Leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) patrol by a roadway near to San Vicente de Caguan in an undated image
It is the latest venture by the Colombian rebel group, who have also launched a television show hosted by a woman(pic) who was sentenced to 27 years in jail for her role in a car bombing
The story of Nueva Colombia Noticias is in many ways a microcosm of both the successes and challenges of reintegrating former guerrillas into Colombian society.
Reporting on the streets, the ex-combatants are coming face-to-face with a Colombian populace reluctant to embrace them after five decades of bloody conflict.
Many Colombians are also wary of the network’s continued ties and unabashed support for the former guerrillas’ new political party.
‘They still have a long way to go in becoming independent and not appearing like propaganda,’ said Fabiola Leon, the Colombia representative for international advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.
In the urban jungle of Bogota, the budding journalists are putting into practice many of the same techniques they learned while dodging bombs and bullets in the countryside: trying to keep calm even when interview subjects begin lambasting former rebels as monsters and terrorists.
‘You feel the rejection,’ said Gersson Pedraza, 25, who joined the Farc when he was 12. ‘And you just have to withstand it.’
In common with many other business projects set up by former rebels,(including this one, pictured) it is based in a former Farc stronghold
The YouTube channel currently has 25 reporters in Colombia’s capital, nearly all of whom are former rebels living off monthly payments that the Colombian government agreed to pay as part of the peace accord.
Those payments are equivalent to 90 percent of the nation’s current minimum wage.
The network also relies on journalists stationed at some of the 26 zones where former guerrillas are transitioning to civilian life.
The bloody Colombian civil war that raged on for decades
Manuel Marulanda, better known as ‘Tirofijo,’ or ‘Sureshot,’ top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrilla movement
HOW IT STARTED
The 1948 assassination of populist firebrand Jorge Eliecer Gaitan led to a political bloodletting known as ‘The Violence.’
Tens of thousands died, and peasant groups joined with communists to arm themselves.
A 1964 military attack on their main encampment led to the creation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc.
WHAT THE REBELS WANTED
Though nominally Marxist, the Farc’s ideology has never been well defined.
It has sought to make the conservative oligarchy share power and prioritized land reform in a country where more than 5 million people have been forcibly displaced, mostly by far-right militias in the service of ranchers, businessmen and drug traffickers.
The Farc lost popularity as it turned to kidnapping, extortion and taxes on cocaine production and illegal gold mining to fund its insurgency.
HOW THE US GOT INVOLVED
In 2000, the United States began sending billions of dollars to counter drug-trafficking and the insurgency under Plan Colombia, which helped security forces weaken the Farc and kill several top commanders.
The State Department classifies the group as a terrorist organization and its leaders face U.S. indictments for what the George W. Bush administration called the world’s largest drug-trafficking organization.
THE MASSIVE HUMAN TOLL
More than 220,000 lives have been lost, most of them civilians. In the past two decades, most of the killings were inflicted by the militias, which made peace with the government in 2003.
An unidentified Farc rebel commander salutes at a peasants during an improvised parade in a central street of San Vicente del Caguan, February 7, 2001
The Farc abducted ranchers, politicians and soldiers and often held them for years in jungle prison camps. Its captives included former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors, all of whom were rescued in 2008.
TODAY’S PLAN FOR LASTING PEACE
Mid-1980s peace talks collapsed after death squads killed at least 3,000 allies of the Farc’s political wing.
Another effort fell apart in 2002 after the rebels hijacked an airliner to kidnap a senator.
The latest talks had gone on since 2012 in Havana and culminated Wednesday evening with a deal after the last issues were resolved.
Agreement previously had been reached on land reform, combatting drug trafficking, the guerrillas’ political participation and punishing war crimes on both sides.
In late June, negotiators announced a cease-fire agreement and a blueprint for how an estimated 7,000 Farc fighters will demobilize and lay down their weapons once the peace accord is implemented.