Elda Neyis Mosquera speaks with AFP during an interview in Carepa municipality, Colombia
Carepa (Colombia) (AFP) - She was one of the most-wanted FARC guerrilla commanders, but these days she sews uniforms for the very Colombian army soldiers she used to fight.
In an exclusive interview with AFP, Elda Neyis Mosquera, whose nom de guerre was Karina, called for reconciliation after Thursday's ceasefire agreement.
The war cost her an eye and earned her a reputation -- falsely, she says -- as a bloodthirsty killer who played football with the heads of her victims.
She surrendered in 2008 after fighting for 24 years for the leftist guerrilla army that is soon to conclude a full peace accord with the Colombian government.
Mosquera -- who rarely speaks to reporters --now says the war was absurd, with Colombians killing fellow Colombians.
She calls for reconciliation once Latin America's longest running armed conflict comes to an end.
She is what is known here as a "peace promoter" -- a former rebel who is now repentant and tries to persuade other guerrillas to lay down arms.
But if the government and the communist FARC rebels seal a full peace deal in the coming weeks as they hope after Thursday's ceasefire, there is still work to do, and risks, she says.
"Colombia is not ready for peace. People still have to disarm their hearts. And that is a tough task that they will have to do," Mosquera told AFP in the jungle of northwest Colombia.
Next month she will complete her sentence of eight years of "transitional justice" during which she lived on an army base here and promoted peace.
Mosquera says she joined the FARC at age 16 because she felt abandoned by the Colombian state.
Now 48, she has deep regrets about what she did during the war, which cost her her right eye during a battle. She says she has found God to ease the pain of all the damage she did. She admits she has blood on her hands.
Here is a summary of the interview with her, which was conducted in the jungle amid the constant squawking of parrots and macaws.
What do you think of the peace process?
It should have happened a long time ago. But it was now or never: the FARC were very weakened, they had lost direction, they had stopped fighting for the people so as to harm the people instead. And now Colombia has to be ready for a very rough post-war period because this is a bourgeois country and the FARC wants to take power. As they could not do that with guns, it has to be done through politics. And here, there is going to be a lot of bloodshed to shape the country that the FARC wants, which is a communist, socialist country with many transformations.
Do you see FARC taking up a role in politics?
That is what they want. But if I look at the experience of other rebel groups that disarmed ... I do not see many of their people involved in politics. And those that are could not do anything to improve the lot of the people who were the low-level fighters of the rebel army.
Do you have any regrets?
Many, many things. I regret having joined the FARC, having let myself get carried away by that rebellion as a young girl, having done all the bad things I did.
Do you have blood on your hands?
Of course. May God grant me life to make up for the damage I did. The discipline of the FARC causes one to make mistakes. I regret all of that. I have asked victims for forgiveness... When you are at war you think everything you do is OK. You do not realize the harm you are doing.
Do you fear reprisals from the FARC?
Yes. But if we are going to achieve reconciliation, the ones we must reconcile with are those we call traitors and enemies. Eight years ago I became an enemy of the FARC. With the FARC I spent 24 years thinking the army was the worst thing there was, and after demobilizing I spent another two years with that mindset. But I see that the people in the army are human beings just like I am.
You are considered a cold-blooded killer.
That is not right. I did not decapitate people. I did not play football with the heads of the deceased. I did not castrate people. That is what is said of me. I spent my entire youth with the guerrilla army. It would be wonderful if God gave me the chance to stay in this country and fight so that Colombia does not go through what I went through. When I began to work as a peace promoter, I used to ask the news media to call me Elda, not Karina. Many people will not forget that alias, but I buried Karina long ago.