Colombia takes big step to peace as rebels lay down guns

In an historic step, President Juan Manuel Santos joins Rodrigo Londono, top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, for a ceremony Tuesday marking the conclusion of the disarmament process by 7,000 rebels nationwide.

MESETAS, Colombia (AP) — Colombia reached a major milestone on its road to peace Tuesday as leftist rebels relinquished some of their last weapons and declared an end to their half-century insurgency.

The historic step was taken as President Juan Manuel Santos traveled to this demobilization camp in Colombia’s eastern jungles to join guerrilla leaders as they begin their transition to civilian life.

In a short, symbol-filled ceremony, United Nations observers shut and padlocked the last containers storing some of the 7,132 weapons that members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have turned over the past few weeks at 26 camps across the country. Yellow butterflies were released and an AK-47 converted into an electric guitar rang out plaintive chords in honor of the long conflict’s victims.

“By depositing the weapons in the U.N. containers, the Colombians and the entire world know that our peace is real and irreversible,” Santos, winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, told an audience of former rebel fighters dressed in white shirts with cuffed hands shaped in a heart and a Spanish hashtag reading “Our only weapon are words.”

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Though hundreds of FARC caches filled with larger weapons and explosives are still being cleared out, the U.N. on Monday certified that all individual firearms and weapons, except for a small number needed to safeguard the soon-to-disband camps, have been collected.

“In a world convulsed by old and new forms of violence, by conflicts whose protagonists appear irreconcilable … a successful process constructing peace in Colombia is also reason for hope and a powerful example for the…

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