Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Rebel tailor sews change in Colombia
by Staff Writers
Bogota (AFP) Oct 2, 2012

For 10 years, Alvaro Perez was a tailor of war, making uniforms for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Now, as the rebels start a peace dialogue, he is living change: sewing school uniforms.

"The greatest message I have is that working can bring about peace too," Perez told AFP amid the din of sewing machines on the first floor of a nondescript brick warehouse in a poor neighborhood in southern Bogota.

In October, the Marxist FARC -- Latin America's largest rebel group with 9,200 fighters still at arms -- began a peace dialogue with representatives of President Juan Manuel Santos' government.

The move by the FARC, which has been battling to take over the government in Bogota for half a century in the region's longest-running insurgency, raised hopes that an ever-elusive peace deal could finally be at hand.

Perez, an upbeat man of 53 with salt-and-pepper hair who has traded the olive drab of rebel fatigues for the blue promise of kids' school uniforms, knows how instructive his personal story might be.

A sign hanging over the workshop of his small tailoring company reads proudly: "The hands that are making these products once upon a time carried a weapon. This is what these hands are making for Colombia today."

While most of the uniforms are for schools, Perez -- who makes a point of hiring former rebels like himself -- also puts together work uniforms for restaurants, as well as for companies like Coca Cola distributors.

"The biggest contribution you can make to peace is working and creating jobs. Because so many people who come out of the guerrillas went there in the first place because they had no opportunities and were poor," explained Perez, who joined the FARC back in 1996.

"It seemed just to me. Because I saw that the rebels were taking things away from rich people and helping the poorer people," he recalled.

Perez lived for years in jungle camps, sewing camouflage caps, trousers and other garments for the insurgents.

While not a frontline fighter himself, he has plenty of memories of seeing his fatigues become bloodied as soldiers got killed.

I remember "being in the middle of the fighting, crossfire, scrambling to hide, helping people, but not fighting myself."

Perez began to become dispirited when the rebels told him he would not be paid a salary for his work.

"They told me: 'hey, nobody is getting paid here. People are working for a cause here,'" he said.

His disenchantment grew much deeper when he witnessed the executions of farmers who would not cooperate with the rebels.

"They would just put three bullets in each one's head. And dump them in the river," he remembered.

When he fled the rebel movement and reached Bogota, Perez faced more tough realities: social reintegration for demobilized guerrillas is hard.

"Becoming accepted is really difficult, because if they know you are a former guerrilla, at first everybody closes every door," he told AFP. "Banks for example, don't want to give you a loan."

But Perez has been one of the luckier ones.

In 2006, he qualified for a government program for former rebels and got a small loan to launch his own sewing enterprise Colfepaz. Through hard work and determination, he has grown the business to a staff of 40 people.

Initially, Perez said, neighbors complained that a former rebel was in the building, fearing somebody might bomb the warehouse.

A former rebel working at Colfepaz, Luz Marina Zarate, saw a tough road ahead for the guerrillas even if the peace talks succeed.

"It's going to be hard for a lot of rebels, getting used to taking orders in a business," she ventured.


Related Links
Democracy in the 21st century at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

What to give a Chinese boss who has it all, or nothing?
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 30, 2012
Giving gifts is crucial if you want to get ahead in Chinese politics or business, but what do you do when you don't know whether your boss is about to be promoted or tossed out of a job? Judging by sales of certain luxury goods in the Chinese shopping heartland of Hong Kong, that's a conundrum facing more than a few well-heeled mainland visitors during the Golden Week holidays from October 1 ... read more

World facing unprecedented refugee crisis: UNHCR

Twenty-five killed in Hong Kong ferry collision: official

Libyans surrender hundreds of weapons to army

Seven Britons, five Chinese dead in Nepal air crash: police

HP powers business tablet with Windows 8

'MindMeld' app anticipates people's needs

Search for element 113 concluded at last

Kodak dumps inkjet printers, more jobs

China's dams a threat to the Mekong

Great Barrier Reef coral halved in 27 years: study

Scaling down: Warming will make fish smaller

Jordanian thirst for water grows

Australian tycoon fined for Arctic party cruise

Study: Arctic warming faster than before

Rudolph unfed loathes rain, dear

Melting Arctic ice cap at record low

Plant scientists create 'see-through' soil

Ex-Aussie PM criticises UN on food security

Argentina looks to soybean windfall

Italy's Slow Food movement prepares giant food fair

Nigeria seasonal floods kill 148: Red Cross

Powerful typhoon hits Japan mainland

Typhoon Jelawat on course to hit mainland Japan

Toll from Spain floods rises to 10: regional officials

Nigeria seeks to end the curse of unfinished projects

Ivory Coast opens first major trial of soldiers in political crisis

France to facilitate Mali anti-rebel force

One-third of Lesotho faces food crisis: UN food agency

Compelling evidence that brain parts evolve independently

Anti-aging pill being developed

Human Brains Develop Wiring Slowly, Differing from Chimpanzees

Breaking up harder to do on Facebook

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement