Colombia's FARC won't field candidate for president after Timochenko heart surgery

The political party formed by Colombia's once-largest rebel group withdrew a former guerrilla commander from the race for president on Thursday, citing both criticism of the political process and his serious health problems.

Long-time rebel group, now a political party, cites criticism of process and candidate's health for withdrawal

Colombia's FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko, speaks during a news conference in Bogota on Feb. 28. FARC was guaranteed a certain number of seats in this year's election, but few observers gave them a realistic shot in the presidential race. (Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters)

The political party formed by Colombia's once-largest rebel group withdrew a former guerrilla commander from the race for president on Thursday, citing both criticism of the political process and his serious health problems.

The ex-rebel Rodrigo Londono, more commonly known by his nom-de-guerre Timochenko, won't seek the presidency in the May 27 election, leaders of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force said.

The group known as the FARC reached a historic peace deal with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos in 2016, allowing it to start a political party in exchange for disarming and confessing any crimes. The campaign has been rocky, despite the accord, FARC leaders said.

It had halted its legislative and presidential campaigns due to security concerns when angry mobs hurled eggs and shouted "Murderer!" at Londono. Leaders also said that hundreds of its members have been killed or jailed and the group has had to endure crippling financial restrictions.

Contesting congressional races

In addition, Londono is recovering from coronary bypass surgery performed Wednesday. Doctors diagnosed him with chronic lung disease and a clogged artery.

Some Colombians have been reluctant to embrace the peace accord with the FARC following more than five decades of armed conflict that left at least 250,000 dead, another 60,000 missing and more than seven million people displaced.

The former FARC rebel best known by his alias Pablo Catatumbo said in an interview on Caracol Radio in Colombia that the group would not name a candidate to replace Londono in the presidential race.

The group said, however, that it will press ahead by keeping its candidates in Sunday's congressional elections.

"We continue to struggle for a great national unity," the group said in a statement encouraging its supporters to cast their votes and insisting it remains committed to ongoing dialogue toward "democratic peace" and "social justice."